Dec 13, 2016

Why I think the Legion is right here in India (not Eastern Europe)

BYRamarko Sengupta

Hacker group Legion in its interview to FactorDaily on Monday hinted that they are in Eastern Europe. On being asked if we could meet them, the Legion member who spoke to us said, “Come down to Eastern Europe and give us a ring. We can definitely meet.”
He (I’m guessing it’s a guy because he called himself the “posterboy for the whole group”) said the group is in “higher single digits” in terms of members. The Legion member avoided questions on whether they are from India or are of Indian origin, only conceding: “If you’re asking if I have an Indian passport — the answer is no.”
In an earlier interview to the Washington Post, a member of the hacker group hinted at being in New Delhi. The article concluded with him saying that he particularly disliked spending time in India’s capital, New Delhi, and suggested that he might try to go to Russia — to do some more drugs.

The kind of hatred this hacker has directed towards Barkha Dutt, Vijay Mallya, Rahul Gandhi and the likes could only stem from someone who’s from India or was in the country till recently  

It is no secret that many of the world’s most advanced hackers are in Eastern Europe, a fact that ethical hacker Saket Modi also corroborated in my Facebook live with him on Tuesday. “Statistically, it’s a very safe haven for a lot of hackers, Russia is one of the leaders… full of extremely talented and extremely genuine hackers,” Modi told me. But, Modi also said that the hacker/s could be right under our noses in the country and we’d never know.
Now, here’s why I think the Eastern Europe bait is just that — a bait — and humbug. I’ve gone through the interview they gave us and what they’ve posted on Twitter over and over again and here’s how I read it:

  1. The hackers, or at least the one who communicates with the media and posts stuff on social, the ‘posterboy’, has a strong India connect and is probably in India itself.
  2. It’s possible his hacker network is spread across borders.
  3. If one goes through all the communication, the strong India connect can’t be missed. It’s almost in your face. Even Indian origin people living abroad rarely have that sort of connect and perspective. The Rahul Gandhi memes that Legion shared around ‘Pappu and Amul’ while calling him “memeworthy” are way too desi for anybody else to get.
  4. Another giveaway is the evident hatred for NDTV journalist Barkha Dutt — getting rather personal with comments like, “You can see the devil in her eyez (sic).” The country is fairly divided on Dutt — she is as popular as she’s unpopular — which perhaps holds true for most prominent figures and celebrities in the country who’ve been in the public eye long enough. The kind of hatred — it’s very evident in all the Twitter communication and liberal doses of personal abuse — this hacker has directed towards Dutt, fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and the likes could only stem from someone who’s from India or was till recently in the country.
  5. In the interview to us, the hacker seemed to go a little easy on another NDTV journalist, Ravish Kumar (who they also hacked), although he was particularly vicious towards Dutt. Could it perhaps have to do with the fact that Kumar is seen as a well-meaning “nice guy, honest journalist” in most circles across India?
  6. Going by the nature of insults belted out at Rahul Gandhi — comments on legacy politics, Gandhi’s family, demonetisation etc — it seems this person is rooted in India and is completely cued into the Indian socio-economic-political scenario.
  7. In the interview with us, the ‘posterboy’ responds to a question in which Rahul Gandhi is addressed as ‘RaGa’ — an acronym used for him often by the Indian media but almost never in foreign media — without batting an eyelid and even addresses the Gandhi scion as ‘RaGa’ himself.
  8. The ease with which he speaks on ‘Amma’ J Jayalalitha (here too he knew who Amma was without being told), Modi and Digital India really makes me wonder — is this guy really sitting in Eastern Europe and has no India connect?
  9. The Legion is clearly very high on pop culture, comic books and Hollywood-esque stuff — all this comes through right on top in their communication. In many a Hollywood film, the anti-hero sends the authorities on a wild goose chase by establishing that they are in another part of the globe from where they’re thought to be (when they’re not). It’s possible the Legion is drawing true inspiration from such Hollywood plots.
  10. In the Washington Post interview, the ‘posterboy’ expressed his disdain for New Delhi and said he wanted to go to Russia “to do more drugs.” Did the drugs do the trick and he imagined himself in Russia already?

FactorDaily’s journalism is produced by some of the best brains in the story-telling business. If you like our body of work – deep reportage, domain specialist write-ups, data stories, podcasts and the like – consider supporting the FactorDaily journey.

Support FactorDaily

Ramarko Sengupta is a writer of FactorDaily.