…Revealed as journalists Mxolisi Ncube and Mkhululi Chimoio
|Journalists Mxolisi Ncube and Mkhululi Chimoio|
Suspected computer hackers last night released the names, pictures and personal email communications of two journalists who are allegedly behind a social media project that hit international headlines last year after claiming to be a mole in President Mugabe’s inner circle.
The scandal threatens to suck in prominent figures who were tricked into releasing money by the pair as some of the released e-mails reveal dealings with The Zimbabwean newspaper editor Wilf Mbanga who apparently requested assistance in marketing his newspaper in exchange for regular cash payments.
The pair identified as South Africa based Mxolisi Ncube and Mkhululi Chimoio ran a Facebook page called Baba Jukwa, claiming to be a high-ranking Zanu-PF official who worked with the President.
|The Baba Jukwa profile picture on Facebook|
It remains unclear whether or not the pair worked alone. There are suspicions that there were other players who had been working in partnership with the two. If the authorities decide to take action against the pair, there is a possibility they will implicate other individuals.
Last night NewZimbabwe.com published email communications, pictures and a video made by unknown hackers showing details of how they penetrated the pair’s email communications and traced their real identities.
One of the leaked but redacted documents, written in the format of an official report, explained that a bona-fide backup email address and phone number had been retrieved from a compromised email account which allowed the attackers to trace the account back to the real identities of Ncube and Chimoio.
It is unclear how access to the email account was gained, leading to speculation in online forums that the intelligence services may have been behind the operation.
A software engineer based in the United States who preferred to remain anonymous for this report said:
Click on the link below to see some of Jukwa's email communications
“It is very difficult to operate clandestinely on the internet unless you are quite technically sophisticated. I really do not know how they got into his emails but it’s possible they sent him an email purporting to have information with an attachment carrying a malicious payload.
“After that, anything could have happened from key-stroke logging to acquire passwords or just screenshot surveillance of all his online activities.”
Reached for comment last night, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo refused to be drawn into speculating about the alleged role of the intelligence services. Prof Moyo said the claim “should be taken with some grain of salt given that Internet hacking has become an art form even among high school kids”.
“While the claim that the anonymous hackers who have unmasked Baba Jukwa worked with unnamed intelligence services should be taken with some grain of salt given that Internet hacking has become an art form even among high school kids, it should be said that there is no unknown on the Internet. Surfing the Internet is no different from driving on any highway,” he said.
“The conspicuous fact with far-reaching implications is that we now all know that Baba Jukwa was a fake Zanu-PF insider who claimed to be a member of the party’s politburo when he most probably does not even know where the Zanu-PF politburo actually meets.”
Prof Moyo added: “While there’s no shortage of Zanu-PF impostors, what is very serious about the Baba Jukwa debacle is not only that the public was deliberately targeted for duping but also that the duping was used to steal money from the public. The Baba Jukwa characters stole money from the public under false pretences. The law must follow that money and take its course without fear or favour.”
|The "BJ" cover picture|
Baba Jukwa came to the attention of the authorities after claiming to be a disgruntled senior Government official. He began a concerted campaign to publish the phone numbers of top State officials, purporting to reveal classified Government information and at one time threatened to kidnap the children of a Cabinet minister. A man was last year arrested after sending indecent messages to Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri after Baba Jukwa had posted the number on his page and urged his followers to call the police chief. A senior Government official, who preferred to remain anonymous as he is not authorised to speak on security matters, said it was possible the hackers have known since the very beginning who Baba Jukwa was.
“The intelligence services, if they are involved, are not necessarily there to stop things from happening but rather to understand a phenomenon. So they tend to take their time and this should not be mistaken for inaction,” said the official.
Little is known about the technical abilities of intelligence services, but it is believed that they have the wide-ranging capabilities to intercept communications under the Interception of Communications Act. The Act provides for a Monitoring of Interception of Communications Centre manned, controlled and operated by designated technical experts.
New Zimbabwe/Sunday Mail