Chennai: Zybeak Technologies, the Chennai-based IT firm which found a place in the pages of WikiLeaks, the international whistleblower, functions from a ordinary office complex with an handful of people in Asiad Colony in Thirumangalam near Anna Nagar. With half dozen workstations in less than 800 sq feet area, the office looks very ordinary. It has an office in New York. Its website describes itself as a dynamic training institute where it also trains people in certified ethical hacking.
In October 2013, Zybeak technologies wrote to Hacking Team, an Italian firm, saying that Tamil Nadu police is seeking some help from the Hacking Team, according to WikiLeaks. “We are in touch with the Tamil Nadu Cyber Crime Division and we have been told that the division does not have enough strength to track and monitor mobile signals.
Our company has been asked to submit a proposal and we are looking to find out if there is any available product which could match the user needs,” said a mail sent to the Hacking Team from Zybeak, as per details available in WikiLeaks.“I am not aware of the correspondence that took place two years ago. We don’t indulge in anything illegal. We do extend our service to the police when they request,” said Lokesh Ramachandran of Zybeak when this newspaper contacted him.
Hacking Team, an Italian firm specialising in snooping devices and software, was very much in demand in Tamil Nadu as well, according to WikiLeaks exposures. However, Tamil Nadu intelligence sources said there was no official communication. “We are happy with the existing technology we are using when it comes to real time tracking of mobile phones,” an officer noted that there is no division in TN police named cyber crime division. The officer added that it is not clear if anybody was using TN police name to procure it privately, with the blessing of some officials. There is nothing official in between Hacking Team and TN police, the officer added.
It was not the first time Tamil Nadu police were in touch with the Italian firm. Earlier in March 2011, two employees of Hacking Team reportedly travelled to Chennai to give demonstrations of their snooping devices, probably a remote control system (RCS), and software to state intelligence officers, according to WikiLeaks. The remote control system enables bypassing encryption, collecting relevant data from all kinds of devices besides monitoring the target device wherever it is.
It may be noted that other mails leaked by the website showed that police in other states including AP, Karnataka, Delhi, Gujarat and Mumbai were negotiating with the same Italian firm in the year 2014. Hacking Team official in an email sent to Maharashtra police said that RCS can attack, infect and monitor target PCs and smart phones, in a stealth way. It allows you to covertly collect data from the most common desktop operating systems, such as: Windows, OS X, Linux.
Furthermore, RCS can monitor all the modern smart phones that function on Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows phone. Once a target is infected, you can access all the information, including: Skype calls, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Line, Viber and many more-- device location, files, screenshots, microphone, virtual currencies and much more.According to TN intelligence officials, it is not easy to purchase such a system which could cost few crores of rupees.
It is very much possible some firms, which was outsourced by certain officers then, was shopping for RCS using TN police name.“All the e-mail mentioned in WikiLeaks has gmail addresses. If it was official it should have NICmail id,” pointed out another officer to stress on the point that it looked more like unofficial communication.