Centre for Internet & Society

The attackers said they were able to access over a gigabyte of data from Mallya's email.

The article by Alnoor Peermohamed was published in Business Standard on December 10, 2016. Sunil Abraham was quoted.

Liquor baron on Friday cried foul over his Twitter account being hacked by a group calling itself ‘Legion’. The group is believed to be the same as the one behind the hack of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter and e-mail servers last week.

Several tweets alleging that Mallya’s e-mail had been compromised and documents related to his offshore investments and bank accounts had been stolen were made from his official Twitter account in early on Friday.

“Outfit called has hacked my e-mail accounts and are blackmailing me!! What a joke,” Mallya tweeted after seemingly taking back control of his account.

The attackers said they were able to access over a gigabyte of data from Mallya’s e-mail and shared a link for the public to gain access to it. They also tweeted the rest of the information on Mallya would be made public in the coming weeks, targeted at bringing him to justice for committing fraud.

The Twitteratti (the general public on the social networking platform), including several of Mallya’s 5.51 million followers, emerged in support of the hackers, who they proclaimed were working in the interest of the Indian people. Mallya has defaulted Rs 7,200 crores in loans and is being investigated for it.

“The e-mail hack is interesting because it’s the same global pattern. People are following Julian Assange’s advice — transparency should be directly proportional to power. What one really means is, public interest should be preserved,” says Sunil Abraham, executive director at Bengaluru-based Centre for Internet and Society.

While a lot of hacks continue to be carried out for monetary gain through extortion, several Internet vigilante groups have cropped up over the past decade, the most famous being WikiLeaks and more recently Anonymous. As India’s politicians, businessmen and the general public increasingly use technology and the Internet, they too are becoming targets for such hackers.

“If Mallya’s email account is hacked and all we get out of it is gossip, then it’s of no use. But if we as a nation ensure that the law is followed, or laws are improved, or corporate governance is evolved, all of that is positive impact of such an event. So hacktivists have to be very responsible when they do this, otherwise they spoil the name of whistleblowers and so on,” added Abraham.

Mallya is currently wanted by Indian law enforcement agencies and has a non-bailable warrant issued against his name by the court. He has currently exiled himself in the UK and refuses to travel to the country unless offered amnesty. While often denying any wrongdoing, the general public perception among Indians is that the billionaire playboy Mallya portrayed himself to be is guilty.