Hyderabad: A key global hub of information technology, has also emerged as one of the major centres of cybercrimes with about 10 per cent of the cyber frauds nationally occurring here on Sunday August 28.
As human life is increasingly becoming digital, cyber crimes are also on the rise. Widespread use of electronic devices that enable Internet access has led to an increase in exposure of individuals and organisations to cybercrimes.
From banks and companies to individuals like students, housewives and senior citizens are falling prey to the cyber criminals operating from remote places both in India and abroad.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau, Telangana contributed to over 10 per cent of cybercrimes reported across the country in 2020.
According to the Crime in India-2020 report released by the NCRB, while Telangana recorded 2,691 cases in 2019, the number of cybercrimes jumped to 5,024 in 2020, at a rate of 13.4 cases per lakh population.
During 2021, Telangana witnessed two-fold increase in cyber crime. A total of 8,828 cases of cybercrime were reported during the year. Of these 5,833 were major offences while 1,191 cases were of online fraud and impersonation.
Customer care fraud, advertisement portal fraud, job frauds, loan frauds, and bank-related frauds were classified as major offences. Other offences include online impersonation frauds, cyberstalking, phishing, and obscene content.
According to police, most of the scams include unified payment interface (UPI) schemes, in which the fraudsters urge victims to scan QR codes in order to get payment and then trick them into sending money.
Hyderabad Police alone booked 5,646 cases of cybercrimes, compared to 1,379 cases recorded in 2020.
Every fifth First Information Report (FIR) in Hyderabad pertains to cybercrime, revealed Hyderabad Police Commissioner C.V. Anand.
The city registers about 100 FIRs every day and about 20 per cent of them are about cyber crimes like social media frauds, financial frauds, hacking and sexual harassment.
According to a police official, UPI scams account for about 45 per cent of all cybercrime instances, followed by 15 per cent OTP frauds, phone customer service, investment fraud, and other cybercrime cases.
The number of cybercrimes increased during Covid-19 pandemic as many senior citizens were avoiding going out and were instead making payments from their homes using internet portals and e-wallets.
Early this year, Hyderabad witnessed a sensational case in which hackers broke into the servers of the A.P. Mahesh Co-operative Urban Bank and fraudulently transferred Rs 12.48 crore.
Police investigations revealed that it all started in November last year when hackers sent about 200 phishing mails to employees of Mahesh Bank.
“Two employees clicked the mails which contained the remote access Trojan virus. Through this the hacker was able to establish a connection with their computers. He then used the keylogger software and was watching whatever the employees were doing on their systems and had access to their username and password,” said Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anand.
On January 23, a day before hacking the server, he opened their systems and broke into the master admin and obtained user name and password. As the bank had made 10 staff members master admin and gave them common user id and password, the hacker could reach the master admin and enter the bank database and make the transactions.
The hacker transferred Rs 12.48 crore into four bank accounts. The commissioner stated that the money was again transferred from the four accounts to 115 different accounts and again to another 398 accounts. A part of the money was withdrawn from 938 ATMs from across the country.
Due to the timely action by the police, another Rs 2.08 crore was saved while Rs 1.08 crore was returned to the bank due to incorrect beneficiary details. The fraudsters, who had opened seven accounts with Mahesh Bank last year, siphoned-off around Rs 9.48 crore.
The handlers and the account holders were paid a commission of 10 per cent by the fraudsters, while the remaining amount was sent to foreign countries through hawala and crypto currency.
More than 100 police officers of Hyderabad travelled across the country for more than two months and the police spent Rs 58 lakh to probe the cyber fraud.
The police arrested 23 accused, including four Nigerians but the main hacker remained elusive. The police believe that he may be in Nigeria or London.
In another major cyber fraud, a Hyderabad-based aerospace multinational company lost Rs 2.30 crore as fraudsters diverted the amount by changing the domain name.
In the case detected in Rachakonda Police Commissionerate this month, the company was tricked in by the fraudsters by changing one letter of the domain name being used by the company for interactions with a foreign manufacturing unit with which it had a contract.
According to an official of the company, their supply chain team interacted with the vendor on a regular basis through emails under the domain name ‘tfcmfg.com’. On June 11, 2022, unknown fraudsters sent emails with fraudulent domain name ‘tfcmfq.com’. The city firm did not notice the change due to similarity in the domain names and also due to the fact the emails sent by fraudsters appeared as part of the same chain of emails between the firm and the vendor. In one of the emails, fraudsters sent four account numbers to credit the money. The firm’s representatives transferred $289,721.97 (about Rs 2.30 crore). The firm later realized that it had been duped.
Police officials say the fact that banks and major companies fell prey to fraudsters show the serious nature of the cybercrimes. They say citizens with less knowledge of technology and lack of awareness can easily become targets of the cybercriminals.
Police say that people can protect themselves by not downloading unknown or suspicious apps or accept any phone calls from unknown numbers or click links sent by unknown sources through messages and mails.
People often fall prey to cyber frauds by not taking basic precautions. The temptation to ‘grab’ lucrative offers, lottery, prize, job offers and loans land them in trouble.
Police in Cyberabad commissionerate, which is one of the commissionerates covering Hyderabad and its outskirts, has been conducting awareness programmes in residential areas, shopping malls, theaters, bus stations, corporate offices and educational institutions.
Early this year, Telangana claimed to become the first state in the country to launch an initiative to deploy cyber warriors at police stations.
Two to five police personnel from each police station are being provided training to act as ‘cyber warriors’ to prevent and investigate cyber crimes, as well create public awareness.
There will be two ‘cyber warriors’ in each police station in rural areas while their number will be three in each police station in semi-urban areas. However, in each of the police stations coming under police commissionerates or cities, five cops will be trained as ‘cyber warriors’.
The state police are focusing on building the capacity of the police personnel for Dark Web investigation to deal with rising cyber crime.
The perpetrators resort to sophisticated cyber attacks, through Deep and Dark web, hacking, crypto currencies.
Last year, the state saw the launch of Citizen Financial Cyber Fraud Reporting & Management System (CFCFRMS ), an initiative to combat and overcome cyber related crimes through helpline number 155260, where lost money is recovered and given back to the victim.
The statistics show that 45,893 complaints relating to financial frauds were received at the call centre in the CFCFRMS system and 9,644 complaints were received through National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal.
In these cases, the victims lost over Rs 95 crore while transactions to the tune of over Rs 5 crore were successfully put on hold by the financial entities.