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Bengaluru: Passport offices alerts public against fake websites


Bengaluru: Passport offices throughout the country are apprehensive about the increase in fake websites that masquerade as official portals for passport related services and siphon off applicant's data and money.

The ministry has been issuing advisories and alerts on its social media handles to caution the public against such fraudulent websites. The crime branch, working with the ministry has also started awareness drives in order to prevent passport applicants from being duped by bogus.

 The fake websites that the offices caught were-
 www.indiapassport.org,
 www.online-passportindia.com,
 www.passport-seva.in,
 www.passport-india.in,
 www.passportindiaporlal.in and www.applypassport.org. (Sc.TOI)

Whereas, the official website to apply for a passport is- "www.passportindia.gov.in" and the official mobile application to avail passport related services is - "mPassport Seva".

Victims who were cheated by these bogus websites and mobile applications approached the passport office and filed complaint at the local police station, said Officials at the Regional Passport Office, Bengaluru. Not only websites but mobile applications and brokers outside the passport offices also demand more payment and could be stealing personal data like Adhaar Card, Voter Id, resident proof and birth certificate to partake in more serious crimes like identity theft or selling the data to immigrants.

The officials said they came across websites that charged unwarranted prices for filling up online forms for a new passport and other services and even people who were highly educated fell victim to the fraud. Where the real cost for a passport is Rs.1,500 for normal and Rs.3, 500 for tatkal, these fraudsters are charging from Rs. 4,500 to Rs. 6,000. And money is the lighter concern, the bigger threat is the theft of personal data like Adhar Number, Voter ID and phone connections.

These websites used logos of other government schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to appear more genuine and true. Even on Google Play Store, at least eight unauthenticated and false applications were found.

This problem is not centrist to Karnataka, as cases from all over the country have been popping up, for instance, NCR and Bhuvaneshwar being two of the areas. Bharath Kumar Kuthati, regional passport officer, Bengaluru, says "they are creating awareness by issuing warnings on social media. It is a pan-India problem and the department is taking steps to counter it."

Private Firm Employee arrested for Data Theft in Bengaluru



Bengaluru: Kamin Prajapathi (40), a senior accountant manager in a multinational software company was arrested by the police on Sunday for data theft.

The accused, a resident of Concorde Napa Valley and Kanakapura Road and Bihar stole the data of nearly 300 employees working in the same company, transferring their bank details, credit card details and bank account details to his personal mail.

Prajapathi started working in the company from August 2017 and quit his job in April 2019 though the police said that before resigning he transferred the stolen data to his personal mail with plans to hand the data to another company for a senior-level position. He told the company, he had surplus confidential data that they could use to their advantage and build their business.

KS Santosh, founder of a cybersecurity solutions firm 'Group Cyber ID', says these type of data theft are pretty common, “These frauds occur in startups, where former employees steal data from the startup and begin their own firm using the data. Many companies have filed data theft complaints against individuals,” (Sc Indiatimes.com)

Likewise, Prajapathi allegedly hacked into the website of the company where he worked and is suspected that he had been stealing data since 2017 and selling it to other companies. Aside from the bank details of employees and clients, he also collected pivotal data of the company's clients.

The managers from the private firm, where he previously worked lodged a complaint at the cyber-crime police station, and after a probe the police nabbed Prajapathi confiscating his laptop, CPU and mobile phone. The cyber-crime officials also found an account created by Prajapathi on a web-based email service as solid evidence against him.

There has been a significant rise in data theft cases in the last few years as reliance on digital platforms increase. In the city itself, there have been cases where the miscreants hacked into the system using simple hacking techniques, and thus it is crucial to install effective data security solutions to protect the privacy and curtail cybercrime.

Bengaluru's Police Accounts Hacked: Culprits changed Twitter ID’s



BENGALURU: In the last four days, five of Bengaluru’s Traffic Police Twitter accounts have been cracked where the hacker alleged access to the accounts, posting spams and changing their usernames.

While the police exhort about strengthening cyber security and the need to use strong unique passwords to safeguard online accounts, their own accounts are being hacked by simple password guessing techniques.

Jayanagar Traffic Police was the first account to be hacked at around 10 pm on Friday, followed by ACP South East Division and soon KR Puram, Shivajinagar and Airport traffic police twitter accounts too were hacked by Sunday.

This is not the first time when Bengaluru’s traffic police have been made a victim of cyber crime - Elliot Alderson, a French based hacker broke into the city’s traffic police website in march this year exposing directories. Even other government sites are not well protected, the Aeronautical Development Agency’s (ADA) TRACES account of the Income Tax Department was hacked with impunity with the culprit still unidentified.

Though, in this case, the culprits simply second-guessed common passwords. A man called up various traffic police stations, claiming to be from the IT Department and asked account details and passwords to reset them. It is suspected that one of the staff members fell for the con and shared the password.

The black hat tried the password on other accounts and voila, it worked!

After breaching their twitter handles, the miscreants posted spam messages from these accounts and changed their usernames resulting in Shivnagar Traffic police handle being renamed as ‘SHIVAJINAGAR CINEMA’ and KR Puram became ‘KR PURAM T BOLIWOOD’.

These consequences could have been avoided by quick thinking and strong passwords. Cyber security experts repeatedly identify the use of strong, unique passwords so that malicious cyber threats can’t find or guess your password. SplashData, a password security company estimates that approximately 10% of individuals used at least one of the 25 worst passwords on this year's list, and approximately 3% used the worst — 123456.

Additional commissioner of police (traffic) BR Ravikanthe Gowda said they have filed a complaint with city cyber crime police and told officials to immediately change passwords to secure their accounts (quoting TOI). They also reported the hacking to twitter awaiting a response.

An officer said they are unable to take back control of their accounts on grounds of lack of trained men for the job.

Bengaluru has only one cyber crime police station with a tally of 8,200 cases this year, though to open more of these has been repeatedly proposed to no effect.

Lone cyber police station in Bengaluru gets overburdened

The delay in setting up new police stations to handle cyber crime has overburdened the lone station in Bengaluru. Eight new police stations for cyber crime, economic offences and narcotics (CEN stations) were announced in December 2018 to handle the growing number of cyber crime cases in Bengaluru. One station was to be set up in each of the eight law-and-order divisions. Even six months after the announcement, the proposal is yet to be implemented.

The existing station, often crowded, has received over 4,700 complaints so far this year. It got 5,036 cases in the whole of 2018.

More cyber crime cases are registered in Bengaluru than in other Indian cities. And yet, some other cities have multiple dedicated stations. For instance, there are three cyber crime stations in Hyderabad.

Policemen say the sheer number of cases hampers investigations. In fact, the station has filed just one charge sheet until now this year against 52 in 2018 and 229 in 2017. A chargesheet is the end of the investigation process from the police side and paves the way for the case to be heard in court. Until now, there has been only one conviction for a cyber crime — in October 2018 after a case was investigated by the CID.

The existing station has a large number of visitors on most days. A policeman said, “Most of our time is spent in handling incoming cases, leaving us with hardly any time to investigate them.” Another official said though about 20 additional Central and Reserve (CAR) personnel have been deployed at the station, more stations are a must for faster resolution of cases.

Deputy commissioner of police (crime) Girish S said setting up of more stations will help the complainants as they will then have to travel only shorter distances to file complaints. Asked if the volume of cases was affecting investigations, Girish said, “I can’t say it’s affecting investigations, but what is happening is we are focusing on the more pressing, immediate cases, due to which the resolution time for other cases gets prolonged.” Cases of a very serious nature are taken up by the CID wing.