The COVID 19 virus has affected most countries in the world, India being one of them with over 19000 people infected till date. Taking into consideration the risk of COVID19, the government announced an initial lockdown of 21 days across India which started from March 25, 2020. The lockdown was further till May 3, 2020. During this period all the private as well as government offices have remained closed and most employees are working from home, making security the next major concern. Security of companies is at stake as all data such as financial information, trade secrets, customer information and such other confidential information of the company is accessible to the employees from their homes with a click of a button. It is essential for employees to take utmost care of the company’s data and secure it from other members of the family and friends in order to avoid misuse of data or breach of confidential information. Apart from company’s information, personal sensitive information and financial information of an individual is also at risk in view of the increase in the Cyber Attacks.
Spyware, Malware, Ransom ware and COVID19 – Virus Attacks
During this period of the lockdown, people are accessing social media websites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., more frequently in addition to watching movies and series by subscribing to web channels like Netflix, Amazon, HotStar, Zee 5 etc. and also indulging in online games by installing various applications. All these activities is supported by the internet. People tend to provide and/or give permissions to access their personal information readily available on their phones, laptops and/or social media accounts in order to use the services provided by the applications. Many a times, in order to purchase apps or access online services, financial information too is shared by the users. Additionally, in view of the ‘stay home, stay safe’ government notification, people have become more dependent on various payment gateways to pay their utility bills, premiums, recharge their mobile phones, buy medicines and essential commodities online and indulge in various such online activities. All these activities have opened the door for spyware and ransom ware attacks. A spyware steals sensitive personal data of the user while, ransom ware takes control over the login and other vital credentials of a person. These attacks may result into huge losses to people not only financially but also otherwise.
In order to avoid such attacks various agencies are suggesting certain counter-measures and healthy practices that one can adopt. Operating systems and secured apps are sending regular updates to its users in order to resolve security vulnerabilities and provide additional security. As per the recent report of the International Criminal Police, Cyber Attackers were trying to target major hospitals and medical institutions in 194 countries including India to obtain information about COVID 19 through ransom ware and malware. There are almost 22 malwares which are detected in India. Therefore, it is essential to secure mobile devices, computers and applications (apps) by installing antivirus systems and making necessary changes in the security settings to prevent sensitive data from being lost or compromised.
Phishing Attacks: Banking Frauds, EMI moratorium Frauds
Currently, banks are operating with limited sources and people are advised to use Internet banking or phone banking to avail banking services. Cyber attackers are making phishing calls or sending phishing emails or SMSes to bank customers pretending to be bank officials and asking them for sensitive information such as their account number, credit or debit card number, CVV, OTP etc. Recently, as per the COVID 19 regulatory package of the Reserve Bank of India, Banks are allowing a moratorium by deferring payment of EMI/ Term Loan Installments & Interest/ Interest on Working Capital, for 3 months w.e.f 1st March 2020. Cyber attackers are now targeting loan holders and contacting them on the pretext of discussing the postponement of their EMI payments and requesting them to share an OTP, CVV, password or PIN related to their accounts to avail the moratorium facility. Therefore, refrain from clicking on links or opening e-mail attachments from non reliable sources or sharing any sensitive information.
Fake News or Rumours:
Another primary issue that has emerged is fake news or rumours that are spreading rapidly across the country. Some examples of rumours and their side effects are discussed below. In March, the misleading information on social media where it was declared that ‘chicken is a carrier of Coronavirus’, cost the poultry industry an estimated loss of Rs. 1.6 billion per day. In another event, an audio clip went viral on social media wherein it was claimed that vegetable sellers were licking/spitting on the vegetables to spread the Corona virus. Eventually, the government intervened and issued a statement claiming that the audio clip was fake. There was another rumour that the Supreme Court had advised the government to restore 4G Internet in J&K within 24 hours. A fake document to this effect was circulated through social media websites which resembled an original Court order. There were also rumours stating that the government was going to reduce 30% pension during the lockdown period. It was observed that various rumours with respect to COVID19 virus too were false and were meant to create tension or fear amongst the people. There was a fake news circulated which enumerated a treatment to the COVID 19. Such news is not only unethical but could also lead to severe consequences.
Taking into consideration the increasing number of fake news, Maharashtra and Karnataka Cyber Police decided to take strict action against every person who is found circulating misleading and unverified information on social media regarding COVID-19. It was also decided that in such case a person is found sharing misinformation on What’s App groups, the ‘Group Admin’ shall be held personally liable for such content in his/her group and will be punishable under the relevant laws. The Indian Government, social media channels and the police, together are taking measures to control the spread of rumours. The Government of India has launched a chatbot on WhatsApp to address user queries, FAQs and pull down rumours on the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, Facebook has also launched a similar chatbot for India that will help verify fake news and curb the spread of rumours.
The Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended) is regulating the Cyber Crimes in India. Indian Ministry of Communication and Technology’s e-governance department is also working towards promoting new apps related to the control of the COVID19. However, it is also essential to be cautious and responsible while sharing the data, handling company’s information and before sharing any message on social media platforms.