Cyber chief's warning as hackers target PM's Covid fund

In a stern warning to Cyber Criminals, India’s National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) in Prime Minister’s Office, Lt General Rajesh Pant has issued a cautioning statement to cyber criminals not to take advantage of the present COVID-19 crisis and commit financial frauds against unsuspecting citizens and enterprises.

Talking to ET Online, in a telephonic interview Lt Gen.Pant said, “In the past two months almost 4000 fraud portals related to Corona Virus have been created across the globe by cyber criminals and other mafia organisations.”

He added, “It is so sad to see that even in the midst of such a serious humanitarian crisis, these heartless crooks can only think of opportunism and theft”.

According to government sources, even the Prime Minister's Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund)’ set up was not spared and within a few hours of it’s announcement on Saturday, “half a dozen” similar sounding websites were created such as “PM-care” etc. Lt Gen. Pant added “fortunately, we have an efficient mitigation mechanism and organisations like CERT-In and the bank staff which are working round the clock to block such malicious sites.”

Earlier this week, India’s computer emergency response team issued an advisory on coronavirus pandemic (covid-19) based cyber attacks.

The DCP Cybercrime pointed on Sunday the Fake UPI ID [email protected] was blocked upon information. They alerted, “Please note, the correct UPI ID of PM CARES Fund is [email protected]

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement on Saturday, "the spread of coronavirus has been alarming and is posing severe health and economic ramifications for our country. The Prime Minister's office has been receiving spontaneous and innumerable requests for making generous donations to support the government in the wake of this emergency."

This fund will also enable micro-donations as a result of which a large number of people will be able to contribute with smallest of denominations, the prime minister office statement said.

A range of celebrities and business community including Gautam Adani, Bollywood actor Akshay Kuma, Varun Dhavan, Gautam Ghambhir, Organisations like Paytm have started pouring funds to PM Cares Fund. Fund is set up to deal with the Covid-19 situation which is “posing severe health and economic ramifications” for our country, PM office said in a statement on Saturday. Prime Minister is the Chairman of this trust and its Members include Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.

Lt Gen. Pant told ET, working from home also poses greater cyber security challenges as he dissected the mind of a hacker. Pant said, “since a large population is now under lockdown and working from homes, their cyber security measures are not as efficient as their office enterprise security standards, which is then exploited by the hackers.”

When asked about the attribution and nabbing cyber criminals, he pointed, even though attribution of the cyber-criminals who are based abroad is a problem area, Lt Gen Pant said he was hopeful that for hackers operating from within the country, “our cyber police will hunt out these scums from under whichever rocks they are hiding and bring them to justice.”

Pointing to the ongoing Covid-19 related scams and threats, Payments Card Industry (PCI) said, "During this time of uncertainty and increased online activity, cyber criminals are actively working to exploit the current COVID-19 story with attacks aimed at taking advantage of the situation. It is important now more than ever to be aware of online scams and threats as they are increasing in volume and sophistication.”