STOP FAKE NEWS – PAUSE, EVALUATE and FORWARD

The potential for fake news to turn viral using social media is quite real. There have been several instances where rumors have incited mob violence between rival communities. The consequence got out of hand when illiterate tribals in a remote Indian district received a Whatsapp message which claimed that children could be kidnapped by a gang and their body parts sold. The message went viral in these villages and mobs of upto 500 people pounced on strangers who they suspected to the child kidnappers, in all there were two incidents where 7 people were lynched.It is quite apparent to every cybercitizen that fake or distorted news is on the rise. Social media allows every individual a platform to disseminate such news or information. Fake news is routinely posted for vested interest such as political distortion, defamation, mischief, inciting trouble and to settle personal problems.  As aptly illustrated in the case above, when fake news goes viral the ill effects escalate to a point where they can cause physical damage, loss of life or long-term animosity between sections of society. Purposely-crafted fake/distorted news introduced over periods of time by vested interests can distort perspectives and social harmony. Such news is...
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What is Data Privacy and why is it an important issue?

The question of whether privacy is a fundamental right is being argued before the honorable Supreme Court of India. It is a topic to which a young India is waking up too. Privacy is often equated with Liberty, and young Indians wants adequate protection to express themselves.Privacy according to Wikipedia is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves, or information about themselves, and thereby express themselves selectively. There is little contention over the fact that privacy is an essential element of Liberty and the voluntary disclosure of private information is both part of human relationships and a digitized economy.The reason for debating data privacy is due to the inherent potential for surveillance and disclosure of electronic records which constitute privacy such as sexual orientation, medical records, credit card information, and email.Disclosure could take place due to wrongful use and distribution of the data such as for marketing, surveillance by governments or outright data theft by cyber criminals. In each case, a cybercitizens right to disclosure specific information to specific companies or people, for a specific purpose is violated. Citizens in western countries are legally protected through data protection regulation. There are eight principles designed to prevent unauthorized...
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Looking for love on Matrimonial Sites! Watch out for the Fraudsters

On Oct 2014, I wrote a blog titled “Conmen use fake matrimonial profiles to scam prospective grooms seeking arranged marriages” warning cyber citizens on matrimonial scams. Unfortunately, since then it appears that these scams have become common and lucrative. These scams earned between 4 lakhs to 1.2 crore rupees (6000 – 200000 USD). Victims were women in their 30’s who had posted their profiles on matrimonial portals. They were emotionally blinded and trusted the online relationship. The scams used in reported cases in The Times of India, July 20, 2017, were custom harassment, gift clearance or urgent need of money due to a financial or medical emergency.  31 year old nurse Conned to accept a parcel that apparently was to contain 15000 GBP ( approx. 12 lakhs) Paid Rs 4.2 Lakhs ( 6000 USD) to a fake courier company 40 year woman Conned to bail her suitor out of a sticky payment at the  customs Paid 74 lakhs (11000 USD) ...
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Disgruntled Driver asks Share Ride Cab Company OLA to Pay Ransom for Kidnapped Passenger

A doctor called a shared ride cab to drive him to the private hospital where he worked. The shared ride arrived on time, but instead of taking the doctor to his destination, the driver threatened the doctor and kidnapped him.  The OLA cab driver, in turn posted a ransom request of Rs 5 Crore (750,000 USD) to the shared ride company, even calling up the hospital were the doctor worked to pressurize the company into paying. The Delhi police, were successful after a 13 day chase to free the doctor unharmed and nab the kidnapper.The motive for the kidnapping was to teach the shared ride company a lesson as they were miffed due to alleged nonpayment of incentives. The incident simply highlights the damage disgruntled employees can cause, many a times due to uncontrolled emotions. While the kidnapping seems to be one of a kind, incidents caused by employees in the workplace is quite common. In the early days, it used to be sabotage of plan and machinery, but in a digital world it is the theft of IP, data or even online defamation of the company and its personnel. ...
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Twelve Commandments that will never fail to Keep You Cyber Safe Online

As the digital world explodes with a variety of new online services, cyber threats have become more ingenuous, dangerous, and spawned multiple variants and types. As each new threat makes the headline, the accompanying set of threat specific security recommendations confuses cybercitizens. Cybercitizens want a comprehensive list of recommendations that do not change frequently. There are twelve foundational security practices that will help keep you and your family safe. Practicing them will harden your defenses against cybercrime and also reduce the negative effects of social media use.1)    Thou shalt not use a device with pirated softwarePirated software is not patched as it is unlicensed. Unpatched software have security vulnerabilities which can be easily exploited to steal data and credentials2)    Thou shalt not use a device which is not set for automatic updates of Operating System patchesAutomatic patching for personal devices is the best way to ensure that the latest security patches are applied and security loopholes closed before cybercriminals can get to them3)    Thou shalt not use a device without updated antimalware (antivirus) software installedAntimalware software reduces the probability of a malware infection (e.g. ransomware) on your device. For it to be effective to catch the...
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Are my password freely available on the Internet? Four actions that can minimize damage

Frequently we hear of large data breaches from email, social networking, news and other types of websites which we are members off.  Many of us may have been challenged by the site owner to change our password when the site suffered a breach and would even have received a breach notification email. It would however be useful to have a service which could tell us if our passwords were available in plain text online, anytime we wished. The good news is that a security blogger Troy Hunt has set-up a site http://haveibeenpwned.com/   Here you could enter your email id (a common login credential) and find out if the corresponding password was exposed on breached sites.  The bad news is that it covers only data breaches where the hacker has dumped the compromised list of passwords on paste sites such as PasteBin. This represent a small fraction of the passwords exposed and in all probability allowed a window of time for the hacker to gain access to your account before the breach was uncovered. It also allows anyone (friend, foe, bully, ex-partner, relative, competitor and colleague) who knows your email id to check for the password, and selectively target...
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Catching IRS fraudsters proves the scale and profitability of impersonation cons

 Fraudsters who posed as IRS officials threatened hardworking Americans with imprisonments for the crime of tax default. Their modus operandi was simple; question victims about defaulting on their tax payments, threaten legal action, arrest, deportation or suspension of business rights, and finally offer an easy way out – a chance to close the case without prosecution for a onetime deposit in a bank account or alternatively getting the bank account details of the victim which were then wiped clean. Incredible as it may seem, the con was so successful that the kingpin lived a life of 5 star luxury, with fancy cars and hotel stays. In a short span of two years he amassed significant wealth and employed over a 700 people in several call centers across India and the US. Most of these call centers were owned by trusted associates and employed high school graduates or drop outs who they lured with high pay and luxurious lifestyles. Income earned in dollars was converted into India rupees using illegal money laundering channels called Hawala. All employees were paid in cash. Call center executives were offered incentives based on the income they generated from these frauds, and the ones...
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