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UK watchdog probing Scotland Yard for using Indian hackers to access emails

UK’s police watchdog is investigating whether a secretive unit in Scotland Yard worked with Indian police and hackers to access email accounts of environment activists and journalists.

world Updated: Mar 22, 2017 16:00 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
File photo of the New Scotland Yard office in London.
File photo of the New Scotland Yard office in London.(Reuters)

Computer hackers based in India are reported to have helped Scotland Yard access email accounts of environment campaigners and journalists over several years, prompting an investigation by Britain’s police watchdog.

According to The Guardian, whose two journalists were among those whose emails were hacked, a secretive unit in Scotland Yard worked with Indian police, who in turn hired hackers to access the emails.

No further details of the Indian police’s involvement were mentioned in the report.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has confirmed it has launched an investigation after a whistleblower detailed the practice in a letter to Jennifer Jones, former leader of the Green Party, which often takes up environment issues.

According to The Guardian, the letter, which was passed on to IPCC, states: “For a number of years the unit had been illegally accessing the email accounts of activists. This has largely been accomplished because of the contact that one of the officers had developed with counterparts in India who in turn were using hackers to obtain email passwords.”

Jones said: “There is more than enough to justify a full-scale criminal investigation into the activities of these police officers and referral to a public inquiry. I have urged the IPCC to act quickly to secure further evidence and to find out how many people were victims of this nasty practice.”

An IPCC spokesperson said: “After requesting and receiving a referral by the Metropolitan police service, we have begun an independent investigation related to anonymous allegations concerning the accessing of personal data. We are still assessing the scope of the investigation and so we are not able to comment further.”

The letter reportedly lists names of 10 individuals, including their passwords.

In recent years, the Scotland Yard unit monitored “thousands of political activists, drawing on information gathered by undercover officers and informants as well as from open sources such as websites”, The Guardian reported.

“Police chiefs say they need to keep track of a wide pool of activists to identify the small number who commit serious crime to promote their cause,” the report added.