Mohammed Peerbhoy, the alleged media chief of the Indian Mujahideen (IM), has told investigators that an Italian expert taught him hacking.
The 31-year-old’s employer had apparently sponsored him to learn cyber security skills against hacking from the Internet security expert in Hyderabad two years ago, but Peerbhoy instead used his acquired expertise to hack Wi-Fi networks to send terror emails.
Peerbhoy, currently in the custody of Delhi Police’s Special Cell for having allegedly sent the IM email preceding the September 2008 serial blasts in the city, told his interrogators that “an Italian internet security expert, along with a few others, taught him how to hack first before learning measures to counter it”, said a senior investigator who did not wish to be named as he is not authorised to talk to media.
Peerbhoy, a former principal software engineer with Yahoo! in Pune, had learnt the “hacking skills” at a six-day course on information security in Hyderabad in May 2007.
The course was organised by Internet security provider E2 Labs and Yahoo! had paid them around Rs. 70,000 for Peerbhoy’s training.
The course was imparted at E2 Labs’ School of Ethical Hacking, which according to the company’s website is “Asia’s first” such school.
Peerbhoy was attending the course when a blast took place at Hyderabad’s Mecca mosque on May 18. “Peerbhoy visited the blast site at the mosque and got very disturbed and upset to see the damages and deaths,” said the investigator.
By then, Peerbhoy was allegedly already a part of the IM, having been “recruited in Pune by an IM spotter as a computer wizard”, and would interact directly with the terror group’s main controller Riyaz Bhatkal. “After learning hacking skills, Peerbhoy told Bhatkal that he was capable of hacking unsecured wireless networks to send terror emails and the IM utilised his skill after realising the dangers of using cyber cafes,” he added.
Peerbhoy “was described by his teachers as a brilliant hacker” and was reckoned as having an “excellent knowledge of computer languages and would always be the first one to finish practical assignments given to him and a few other sponsored participants.”
Peerbhoy is currently in Mumbai with a Special Cell team. He has been taken there to confirm how he hacked an unsecured Wi-Fi network there (in Chembur) to sent IM’s email on September 13 before Delhi blasts, according to cell’s deputy commissioner Alok Kumar.
His modus operandi was simple: he, along with arrested accused Mubin Sheikh and Asif Sheikh, would move across Mumbai in a car to detect unsecured Wi-Fi connections to send e-mails.