Swindled, online and offline

Shivaji Sarkar
Cyber security is less debated, sporadically written about, and rumoured at best in India. Because of this apathy and despite India’s grand stature in the cyber world, we are, more than others, vulnerable to the cyber snarls.
The bankers’ recent move to put a check on 3.2 crore credit and debit cards has sent alarm bells ringing across the country. It was done to curb cyber frauds on the banking system. The move also exposes how insecure the online banking is. Credit/debit card frauds are rising across the globe and cyber experts say India is one of the most vulnerable nations. The system does not have the exact numbers of the victims but it definitely is in millions.
Mobile banking is stated to be even more vulnerable. Another easy and novel method to defraud is for fraudsters to call up people in the name of a private bank and say that they want to transfer some amount to their cards. In the name of verifying card numbers, they seek all the vital data. People realise it soon after they have been swindled. The phone numbers are never accessible after the fraud. Many such numbers are stated to be based in Maharashtra, though the police say these are linked to and international network and difficult to trace.
While banks have failed to realise the bad loans, they have now started penalising the card-holders for extreme trivialities like delay in payment by a day or two. But when they keep excess amount for over 40 days, they do not pay the card-holders a penny. The banks in many cases are acting irresponsibly. Their customer care numbers are difficult to access. They do not give emails to forward complaints. Their CEOs do not respond and branches say they do not have a mechanism to receive complaints.
Indeed it is strange that the banking system did not listen to the wake-up call that emanated from the heist of a Bangladeshi bank in February 2016. Cyber thieves attempted to transfer $951 million and successfully transferred $81 million to a bank in the Philippines, never to be traced again. It sent shock waves across the global banking community, both for the amount of money that was swindled
and on how the heist leveraged the Society
for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) system, the backbone of international finance.
The recent data breach is being probed by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), a Reserve Bank of India wing. But the NPCI seemingly does not even have the number of people affected. It says the complaints of fraudulent withdrawals are limited to cards of 19 banks and 641 customers, as their ATM linked to the service providers’ switch were compromised. But there are reports that over 85,000 sites in India have faced external attacks in the last four years or so, related to core Government, academic, banking or even science institutions. The success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India depends on cyber security. The Chinese National Security Council, with its 1.25 lakh cyber security experts, is stated to be a potential challenge to India’s cyber security, says Cheri McGuire, vice president, global government affairs and cyber security policy, Symantec Corporation. In contrast,
India has a mere 556 cyber security experts. If hackers managed to destroy India’s bank data, there would be financial chaos. As per the RBI, India’s banking system is worth $190 billion, ranking it as the third largest among the Brics countries and 15th in the world. At stake is India’s US$ 2.1 trillion GDP, power grids, telecommunication lines, air traffic control, the banking system and all computer-dependent enterprises. Cheri says, the year 2014 saw 317 million malware variants globally or nearly one million new malware daily. In India, he added, “we saw targeted attacks in businesses dealing with critical infrastructure particularly in financial sector, communication, transportation – thus underpinning the national security
and economy. Among these attacks, 60 per cent were on large enterprises”.
Some Indian experts say the cyber system within the country is secure but the Swift and other international gateways have problems.
Money in the modern world is just an entry on a computer rather than gold and hard currency. According to a rough estimation, every year India is subjected to four billion dollar loss due to cyber attacks, a majority of which is stated to originate from China.
Cyber security is less debated, sporadically written about, and rumoured at best in India. Because of this apathy and despite India’s grand stature in the cyber world, we are vulnerable to the cyber snarls.
The Government needs to restrict individual account/card holders, the most vulnerable, from dealing in cyber transactions for 90 days. Large houses should be asked to transact through banks. During this time, a foolproof system should be created. Prevention is better than cure.

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