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What’s trending in cybercrime? Thane cops get a grounding

05:09 AM May 29, 2019 | Free Press Journal Correspondant

Mumbai: Mobile cloning, WhatsApp duplication, phishing and mobile terrorism are the new tools of trade that criminals have at hand and 127 personnel of Thane Police received ground lessons on how to combat these from cyber expert Pankaj Bafna at the Thane police headquarters on October 25.

Explaining WhatsApp duplication, advocate and cyber expert Pankaj Bafna said, “There is duplication of WhatsApp groups these days. The criminals circulate the link of a fake website or the link of an image on WhatsApp. Once the victim clicks on the link, an unknown number gets stored in the victim’s contact list, unbeknownst to the victim. The cybercriminals then create a WhatsApp group using the existing number of the victim.

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The criminals add other victims on the group and since they now have access to the victim’s other contacts due to this phishing technology, they share inappropriate sexual content and defamatory images to harass the victim. The criminal then adds other victims as administrators and continues to threaten them through WhatsApp messages. When the victim makes a phone call to the accused, to ascertain his identity in order to register a police complaint, the accused does not answer. Through this modus operandi, data theft too is carried out.”

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Bafna found the police were unaware about the new trend of crimes on WhatsApp. “Majority of the policemen who are filing First Information Reports for cyberfraud cases were not aware of the new cybercrimes,” he said. The modus operandi of the hackers in accessing the phone contact list is similar to the blunder committed by Google in August after a Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) helpline number 1800-300-1947 was automatically saved in the phone contact list of Android mobile phone users, Bafna said. Google had issued a clarification that the helpline number was coded into devices in 2014 in the Android set-up wizard, resulting in the goof.

Policemen at the inspector-level rank were also informed about mobile terrorism. “In the present times, terrorists do not need to plant RDX. They plant mobile phones in a particular area where the blasts is to be carried out. This was the modus operandi used in the Zaveri Bazar blasts, ” added Bafna.

Despite, the Reserve Bank of India issuing an advisory to the citizens to not share one-time passwords (OTPs) with those claiming to be bankers, the victims have been doing so. “The criminals engage the victim for around a minute in a conversation over the phone, claiming to be an executive of the bank where the victim has an account. They take important bank details, including the OTP. It is surprising that educated people give out their bank details to these criminals. This is known as mobile hypnotism. After 10 minutes or so, the victim realises his mistake in giving away confidential bank details,” explained Bafna.

Sukhada Narkar, Thane police spokesperson said, “We shall be conducting more awareness programmes on cybercrimes in the near future since their incidence is on the rise. The force needs regular training to be well-versed with the new trends in technology and cyberfrauds.”

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