“Cybercrime threatens everything from smartphones to nuclear reactors and even national security” | Bombay News
Mumbai: New age cybercrime has surpassed $6 trillion in revenue and damage, catapulting it as the number one organized crime syndicate, overtaking narcotics and counterfeiting globally. Incidentally, our prime minister had envisioned making India a $5 trillion economy by 2025, a pale figure compared to the cybercrime space, which is expected to reach $10 trillion by the.
In a world where every day is a technological miracle, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a welcome convenience. As driverless cars, armies of superhuman robot clones, click-of-the-moment money transfers, smart homes and the obsession with social media have sparked a revolution and turned the planet into an unrecognizable place over the over the past five years, cybercrime has emerged as an organized phenomenon. well-funded business. It’s aptly called the “21st Century Arms Race” where there is a mad rush to dig up Zero-day (unreported) vulnerabilities and exploit them with the anonymity offered by Darknet or Onion-ToR routers. .
The Internet originated in the late 1960s as the ARPANET, a small network of government computers. It has metamorphosed into a ubiquitous and ubiquitous phenomenon. The world of cybercrime has also massively extended its tentacles, best illustrated by the following scenarios inspired by real cases from cyberpolice files.
A journalist living in a typical Bombay studio and accustomed to online chatting, fell victim to a spear-phishing attack, where malicious code called a video keylogger was installed on her laptop. Therefore, whatever she typed, all keystrokes were recorded on her laptop’s hard drive and emailed to the cybercriminal. Even her webcam was inadvertently turned on and all images were transferred the same. All videos and data were meticulously gathered and used to blackmail the gullible victim. The girl attempted suicide and was later counseled.
A couple of Chinese teenage hackers, perhaps having nothing better to do while on vacation, hacked and even attempted to alter the course of 2 NASA satellites. Hacks were detected and thwarted with the real threat of converting satellites into weapons of mass destruction.
Cybercrime is proliferating and metamorphosing into highly innovative forms at an alarming rate. Cybercrimes such as virtual kidnapping, hacking, online instant loan fraud and eSIM fraud are on the rise and lack of awareness is further exacerbating the problem, leading to widespread financial and reputational damage.
A Pegasus malware, developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, has gained notoriety by wreaking havoc on the privacy of hundreds of smartphones. The distinguishing feature of the spyware was its “zero click” feature, where it installed itself on the victim’s phone without the victim having to click a single malicious link once and then took over all the controls. administration, allowing him to listen to all communications. , text, chats, and even turn on the camera and microphone to see and hear scenes and ambient sounds.
In October 2020, a large-scale power outage in the Mumbai region that brought the entire city to a screeching halt, including its lifeline, local trains, was attributed to an act of cyber sabotage. The New York Times investigation and reports revealed that 14 Trojans or malware from hostile countries had infected electricity servers.
2018 Pune Cosmos Bank cyber heist where hackers stole ₹94 crore in just two days through multiple ATM sweeps in 28 countries around the world and the 2021 Nanded Cooperative Bank cyber heist, where ₹14 crore was siphoned off by hacking the core banking solution system, are glaring illustrations of the scale of dacoity not by bullets and bombs but by bits and bytes.
Hypothetically, if such massive banking was conducted in the physical world using automatic weapons, there would have been governments without headquarters and heads would have rolled aplenty.
Another terrifying scenario of cybercrime is its transformation into cyberterrorism. Hacked railway signaling systems can lead to train collisions, hacked water purification plants can lead to poisoning, and hacked nuclear missile control systems can lead to rogue nuclear attacks and disaster. The main reason Iran is still a non-nuclear-weapon nation is the iconic cyberattack dubbed ‘Stuxnet’ on its Netanz uranium enrichment centrifuges, where they spun at supersonic speed and crashed. self-destructed. Cyberterrorism is very real – a Frankenstein’s monster, which must be tamed.
Cybercrime has redefined the landscape. It’s no longer perpetrated by a lone computer scientist camouflaged in a hoodie. It’s business, a parallel economy worth trillions of dollars. It is preferred due to low entry costs, technological advancements are so rapid that law enforcement is unable to keep pace. The risk of getting caught is minimized by proxy bouncing techniques and the use of virtual private networks (VPNs), which make the attack appear to originate from a country like Iran or North Korea, which are shrouded in secrecy.
Cybercrime is morphing at the blitzkrieg pace into darknet crimes where one can hire a hitman or buy and sell narcotics with anonymity, ransomware where an agency’s data is surreptitiously encrypted and a ransom demanded in cryptocurrency to decrypt them, man-in-the-middle attacks, sextortion, online social child grooming, child pornography, Jamtara-style online financial frauds, identity theft, scam, skimming attacks, phishing and vishing attacks, critical infrastructure hacks by state actors or even counterfeit and bare deep attacks.
It is imperative that law enforcement agencies act together and combat cybercrime in a sincere and concerted manner, with international cooperation and the upgrading of resources, tools and skilled manpower.
The author is an IPS officer and is currently assigned to the Cybercrime Special Department of IGP Maharashtra, which is the nodal agency for Cybercrime and related matters for the State of Maharashtra.