Hacking gang targeted Qatar World Cup critics – report


LONDON — An India-based hacking gang has targeted Qatar’s World Cup critics, an investigation by British journalists said on Sunday, as the Qatari government furiously denied playing a role in the commissioning of listening.

A database leaked to Britain’s Sunday Times and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed the hacking of a dozen lawyers, journalists and public figures from 2019 “commissioned by a particular client”, the newspaper and the newspaper said. office in a statement.

“This investigation clearly indicates that this client is the host of (the) World Cup: Qatar,” he said, prompting Qatari authorities to call the allegation “manifestly false and baseless”.

Among those targeted was Michel Platini, the former boss of European football.

Platini, who was hacked ahead of talks with French police over World Cup corruption allegations, told AFP he was “surprised and deeply shocked” by the report.

He said he would explore all possible legal avenues regarding what appeared to be a serious “breach” of his privacy.

London-based consultant Ghanem Nuseibeh, whose firm Cornerstone produced a report on World Cup-related corruption, was also targeted, the Sunday Times said in its report based on the joint investigation.

Others included Nathalie Goulet, a French senator and outspoken critic of Qatar for allegedly funding “Islamic terrorism” and Mark Somos, a German-based lawyer, who had filed a complaint against the Qatari royal family with the Human Rights Council. United Nations man.

More than 100 targets

The controversy comes two weeks before the World Cup kicks off in the conservative Gulf state on November 20.

The newspaper alleged the hack was orchestrated by a 31-year-old accounting firm employee, who denies the allegations.

Based in a suburb of the Indian tech city of Gurugram, near Delhi, his network of hackers allegedly tricked their targets into using “phishing” techniques to gain access to their email inboxes, sometimes also deploying malware. to take control of their cameras and microphones. .

Hacking attacks were not limited to those interested in the Qatar World Cup, however.

In total, more than 100 victims had their private email accounts targeted by the gang “on behalf of investigators working for autocratic states, British lawyers and their wealthy clients”, according to the report.

These included politicians dealing with issues relating to Russia, such as the former British finance minister, Philip Hammond.

He was targeted during a period when he was dealing with the aftermath of the 2018 Novichok attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal which the UK blamed on Russia.

The Swiss president and his deputy were also hacked days after the president met then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss Russian sanctions.

The gang also took control of computers belonging to Pakistani politicians and generals and had their conversations monitored, “apparently at the request of the Indian intelligence service”, the Sunday Times added.

‘No proof’

A Qatari official dismissed the allegations, describing the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) report as “littered with inconsistencies and blatant lies that undermine the credibility of their organization”.

“The report relies on a single source who claims its ultimate client was Qatar, although there is no evidence to prove this,” the official told AFP in a statement.

“Many companies have also boasted of non-existent ties with Qatar in an attempt to boost their profile ahead of the World Cup.

“The TBIJ’s decision to release the report without a single credible piece of evidence to link their allegations to Qatar raises serious concerns about their motives, which appear to be driven by political reasons rather than public interest,” added the manager. —AFP

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