Appin: The Hidden Indian Cyber Firm That Hacked the World’s Elite
At the heart of an international scandal emerged the Indian IT company Appin, embroiled in industrial-level cyber espionage. The firm, which began as a modest educational startup, has burgeoned into a formidable force in the realm of cyber espionage, penetrating the data of political leaders, international executives, esteemed lawyers, and many others.
Among the notable victims of the cyber attacks was Chuck Randall, a representative of the Shinnecock tribe in Long Island, New York. Randall had intended to unveil a substantial real estate agreement aimed at augmenting his tribe’s stake in a lucrative c*asino venture. However, the leakage of his correspondence, disseminated in the form of brochures across the Shinnecock reservation, sparked a scandal and ultimately derailed the deal.
An investigation by Reuters revealed that Appin was engaged in extensive cyber espionage, hacking into the data of political figures, global leaders, prestigious attorneys, and numerous others. The company emerged as a leading provider of cyber espionage services to private detectives, working on behalf of major businesses, law firms, and affluent clients.
Unauthorized access to computer systems is a crime worldwide, including in India. Nevertheless, Appin actively marketed its capabilities in “cyber espionage”, “email monitoring”, “cyber warfare”, and “social engineering” in its presentations to potential business partners.
This investigation is based on thousands of the company’s emails, financial records, presentations, photographs, and messages, as well as materials from law enforcement agencies in the USA, Norway, the Dominican Republic, and Switzerland. The materials were collated from various sources, including former company employees and cybersecurity experts.
The authenticity of Appin’s communications was confirmed through 15 sources, including private detectives who commissioned hacks and former Appin hackers. Additionally, the American cybersecurity firm SentinelOne scrutinized the materials for signs of digital forgery and found none.
Legal representatives of Rajat Khare, one of Appin’s leaders, deny their client’s involvement in cyber espionage activities. They assert that Khare has dedicated his career to information security, not illicit hacking.
This investigation reveals the extent of Appin’s activities and underscores the challenges faced by international law enforcement agencies in countering such cyber threats. While Appin has largely vanished from public view, it has left a significant impact, with several firms founded by former Appin employees continuing to compromise the cybersecurity of thousands of users.