The wealthy heirs of John D. Rockefeller operate the Rockefeller Family Fund, a charity that pushes agendas like climate change and equity. Recently the Rockefeller Family Fund was infiltrated by Indian hackers, who also infiltrated other environmental activist groups. The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher M. Matthews reports:
In the midst of perpetrating what federal prosecutors say was a massive corporate hacking campaign, Israeli private detective Aviram Azari in 2017 received welcome news.
A group of hackers in India wrote him to say they had successfully infiltrated the email and social-media accounts of a group of environmental activists campaigning against Exxon Mobil Corp.
“On a happy note I would like to report some success below: Project Name Rainbow,” the hackers wrote in electronic messages that were viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The messages included evidence of the successful intrusions, including screenshots of compromised email inboxes.
The messages along with court records reveal new details about the hacking campaign, including that thousands of individuals and companies were targeted and at least some of the attacks resulted in the hackers successfully gaining access to the private accounts of the victims and obtaining their passwords.
Among the targets was the Rockefeller Family Fund, a charity created by some of the heirs of John D. Rockefeller, who founded Exxon’s forebear Standard Oil. The fund has for years been involved in campaigns arguing that Exxon hid from the public the full extent of what it knew internally about climate change and the role fossil fuels played in causing it.
Exxon has long denied those allegations.
An Exxon spokeswoman said in a statement that the company “has no knowledge of Azari, had no involvement in any hacking activities and has not been accused of any wrongdoing. To be clear, ExxonMobil has done nothing wrong.”
Mr. Azari pleaded guilty in April 2022 to participating in a hacking conspiracy, wire fraud and identity theft. After several delays, his sentencing was set for late March in federal court in New York, but was delayed once more last week at his request.
Federal agents arrested Mr. Azari in 2019 while he was on a family vacation in Florida. Since then, he has been held in a federal detention center in Brooklyn and the mystery has lingered about who Mr. Azari’s clients were.
Prosecutors in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan haven’t accused anyone of hiring Mr. Azari to hack the environmentalists and no one else has been charged publicly in connection with the case. In a court filing last year, prosecutors said his clients “included Israeli, European, and U.S. companies.”
Last year, prosecutors notified some of the activist groups, including the Rockefeller Family Fund, that they were targeted or successfully infiltrated, according to documents viewed by the Journal and people familiar with the matter.
It couldn’t be determined if the fund was successfully hacked. The hackers were able to access accounts belonging to employees of other groups that have also campaigned against Exxon, including Greenpeace, Public Citizen and 350.org, among others, according to the documents.
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