Hyderabad: Picture this scenario. You have finally succumbed to numerous calls from banks to take a credit card and you take one, the one that promises most offers and cash back. But soon enough, the bank cancels those offers. You feel dejected but you’re still happy you have a credit card.
And then, you receive a call where the caller claims to be from the bank and convincingly tells you your credit card number, address, date of birth and asks you to ‘not tell the CVV but tell the 3-digit number on the back of your card’ and confused, you do. Then you get an OTP as confirmation for the supposedly ‘new card’ that the bank is replacing yours with, but the minute you tell the caller the OTP, a few thousands of rupees vanish from your account.
This is one of the myriad ways in which cyber criminals dupe people and this is what happened to Kancharla Mani Reddy, an IT professional from the city, who luckily was aware of what was going on and just played along with the caller to see what extent it would go to. “They spoke very convincingly and I don’t know how but they managed to get all of my data, from the last 4-digits of my credit card number to my address and date of birth. Red flags were popping up when they tactfully asked for my CVV number and the minute I received an OTP, it said OTP request for Rs 10,000 from an e-commerce platform. That is when I cut the call,” he shares.
In his case, being aware was the only reason that stopped him from falling prey to a form of cybercrime called ‘Vishing’. Now, imagine another scenario. A woman receives a call from a friend of hers, saying they received an inappropriate message from her social media account. It turns out someone else created an exact replica of her Facebook profile and sent requests to all the women on her friends list.
“I wasn’t using my Facebook account for quite some time and it was when a friend told me that she received an inappropriate message that I realised someone had faked my account,” says city-based professional Mudigonda Dakshayini. In both scenarios, victims were tech-savvy and from educated backgrounds. This emphasises the need to be aware of all possible ways in which one might end up as a victim of cyber frauds.
Krishna Yedula, general secretary of Society for Cyberabad Security Council which recently launched an initiative ‘DiLSeY-Digital Literacy to Secure Youth’ says: “The entire student community moved into virtual mode because of the pandemic. Students are more used to the virtual way of learning now and adaptability to digital tools has increased. It is crucial for every digital product user to be aware of cybercrime and its methodologies.”
According to him, children and senior citizens are at high risk of being victims of cyber frauds. Children now have access to the internet with all its goods, bads and uglies. Senior citizens are at a risk of losing their money to online scamsters as they are not usually tech-savvy. Apart from this, people from the unskilled sector who now have a smartphone fall prey in many ways.
Echoing this is Bharani Kumar Aroll, president of Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association. “Smartphones in the hands of children have become a necessity but at the same time, they give the child/teen privacy that a desktop or a laptop can’t. Every youngster wants to be on social media and while it has its benefits, it is important to know the risks involved. There is end-to-end encryption on most platforms but once information reaches the other end, it is decrypted and openly available on the other device. Going by the estimates there will be 850 million smartphones in India by next year, and being safe on the internet is not an option,” he says.
The solution, experts say, is that there has to be an all-around effort to tackle cybercrime. “It is the responsibility of everyone with a digital device to educate themselves and others to fight this. There is no other option. If you are using a digital device, you have to educate yourself,” says Krishna Yedula, SCSC general secretary.
About keeping children and teens safe, HYSEA president Bharani Kumar Aroll has a crucial point to put forth. “Children must be sensitised and educated by parents or at least by a trusted source. Even sensitive topics related to cyber-safety should be spoken about without inhibition between the parent and the child and it is also very important not to police the child. If you police your child, they will most likely find ways to hide what they’re doing online. Educate them.”
What should one do if you end up becoming a cyber-victim? Bharani’s answer is this, “Directly approach the police without hesitation and they will solve it. It is important for people to trust the system. Approaching the police will also bring forth any new type of crime and help bring out a bigger solution.”
• Never share your passwords
• Build stronger passwords with characters, letters, numbers and special characters
• Do not share sensitive information through apps
• Ensure laptops and mobiles are protected against viruses and spyware
• Avoid using Face ID and finger-print ID for banking; use passwords
• Backup data on reliable cloud sources
• Do not rely on social media cloud facilities
• Be vigilant about messages. Do not click on links in SMSs
• Keep your phone and apps updated
• Do not use WhatsApp Web on computers you don’t trust
• Do not share your password when you give your phone for repair
• Do not give apps permission to access your data
• Avoid taking screenshots of chats
• Treat group chats as public platforms
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