‘Sophisticated Attack’: Nidhi Razdan on Harvard Appointment Fiasco
The former NDTV journalist explained the sequence of events, why she thought it was genuine, & how it unravelled.
One day after she announced that she had been the victim of a phishing attack and her appointment as a professor at Harvard University had been an elaborate set-up against her, former NDTV journalist Nidhi Razdan has written a detailed piece on how this happened.
“But here I am, almost eight months later, devastated by the realisation that this entire process to “hire” me; my “appointment” to Harvard was all part of an elaborate and sophisticated phishing attack to access my bank account, personal data, my emails, my medical records, passport and my devices like my computer and phone. I wanted to write this piece to explain what happened to me and hope that it serves as a lesson to everyone else.”Nidhi Razdan’s article on NDTV
Razdan explains that the sequence of events began with her being invited to speak at an event at the Harvard Kennedy School in November 2019. She was later contacted by someone who appeared to have been one of the organisers of this same event saying there was a vacancy for a teaching position at the university.
She submitted her CV, and then went through a 90-minute online interview for what seemed like a legitimate position. She asserts that she did a quick Google check which confirmed that the Harvard Extension School does offer a Master of Liberal Arts, Journalism degree, and that there were 17 other faculty members for this course at the Extension School.
Following the interview, she says she received an email from someone who appeared to be from the Harvard University HR department, on a seemingly-official Harvard email ID, offering her the position.
“The offer letter and the agreement appeared to be on a genuine letterhead with the University insignia, and contained the "signatures" of all senior Harvard University officials who actually do hold those positions even today. The emails from this individual were all marked to what appeared to be an official group university ID,” Razdan writes.
The ex-NDTV executive editor notes that separate emails were sent to her former employers with requests for recommendation letters, which were subsequently acknowledged as well in a seemingly-official manner.
Although there was supposed to be a faculty orientation in March 2020, this was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which didn’t seem suspicious, Razdan writes. She quit NDTV in June 2020 and publicly announced that she was taking up the position at Harvard – she claims to have been sent class schedules, details of the subjects she was going to teach, even a break up of the class, all of which made the whole thing seem genuine.
She says she eventually started to get frustrated and suspicious when her classes were supposed to start online in September 2020, but were then pushed to October and then January 2021. Her salary which was supposed to be paid from September never arrived.
In December 2020, she wrote to the head of HR at Harvard, but it was only when she wrote to the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in January 2021 that she heard back from them saying they had no record of her appointment.
“I wrote back to Harvard expressing shock at this and urged them to take this matter seriously since there are people impersonating their senior staff and even forging their signatures on fake letterheads, including the Vice President of HR and their Chief Financial Officer.”Nidhi Razdan’s article on NDTV
After going over the emails, Razdan’s lawyer reportedly told her “that this was a massive phishing exercise, in all likelihood aimed at stealing my money and taking my personal data to misuse it.”
She has filed a criminal complaint with the police and handed over all the documents required, terming this a “gross criminal act”. She concludes by warning that this kind of thing could happen to others and was shaken by what happened to her.
“In hindsight, I guess I never saw any cause for alarm because of the pandemic and the chaos and disruption it had caused the world over. Also, because no one ever asked me for money, this was a very sophisticated attack... If after all this the only thing I can be accused of is being stupid, then I’ll take it on the chin, learn from it and move on.”Nidhi Razdan’s article on NDTV
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