Nearly a year later, it is still uncertain why Ms. Razdan and the other women were targeted. Although the scammers expressed support online for the Hindu nationalist movement in India, they shed little light on their decision to trick reporters.
The perpetrators have successfully covered their tracks — at least, most of them. The New York Times reviewed private messages, emails and metadata the scammers sent to the women as well as archives of the scammers’ tweets and photos that the scammers claimed were of themselves. The Times also relied on analysis from researchers at Stanford University and the University of Toronto who study online abuse, and from a cybersecurity expert who examined Ms. Razdan’s computer.
The identities of the scammers remain a secret.
“It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, an institute at the University of Toronto that investigates cyberattacks on journalists. “It’s a huge amount of effort and no payoff that we’ve identified.”
‘This hotel fine for you?’
One at a time, the scammers selected their prey.
The first known target: Rohini Singh, an outspoken female journalist who had broken some big stories that powerful men in India didn’t like.
Ms. Singh delivered a blockbuster article in 2017 about the business fortunes of the son of India’s current minister of home affairs. She is a freelance contributor to an online publication called The Wire that is among the most…