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Phishing for trouble

india Updated: Feb 12, 2008 20:56 IST

As more and more people are logging on to the internet to conduct bank transactions or buy products online with their credit cards, the chances of being targeted by cyber frauds are also increasing. According to a report, the Surat Police has arrested a person from Mumbai for cleaning out Rs 12 lakh from at least eight HDFC bank accounts over the past one year. The accused managed to siphon off the money by phishing, an online method to criminally acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. The accused, Jitesh Kishan Gavit, has confessed that he was a part of a Singapore-based phishing syndicate.

Worldwide, the threat of phishing has been increasing over the years. An Anti-Phishing Working Group report released in January 2008 says that November 2007 reported the highest number of hijacked brands ever recorded by it in a single month with 178 corporate identities targeted. The report noted that financial services continue to be the most targeted industry sector with 93.8 per cent of all attacks aimed at it in November. An earlier report from the Group had said that India is one of the top 10 nations where sites involved in ‘phishing’ are hosted.

For a country that banks heavily on Internet-based businesses in which personal data security is non-negotiable, cyber crime can hit businesses and affect consumer confidence. Recently, Minister of State for Information Technology and Communications, Shakeel Ahmed, said that the Information Technology Act would be strengthened to deal with data crime, transmission of pictures and other kinds of cyber crime. A much-required move, but along with it, there are two issues that need to be addressed: educating the users and training more cyber security experts. Safe computing practices must be taught at the school and college levels and users of net banking, online shoppers and holders of demat accounts must be aware of cyber safety concepts. There is a huge shortfall of trained people in the fields of cyber law, cyber crime investigation and cyber security. And, all this needs to be rectified without delay because history has shown that hackers have always been one step ahead of all the different e-bulwarks we set up.