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India phishing in troubled waters

Tuesday, 8 April 2008 - 2:39am IST

Cyber crime in India has grown over 50 times since 2004, according to the government’s yearly assessment.

NEW DELHI: Cyber crime in India has grown over 50 times since 2004, according to the government’s yearly assessment. The biggest rise has been in computer crimes that target financial services and e-commerce businesses on the internet.

The computer emergency response team (CERT), the top cyber security wing under the information technology (IT) ministry, recorded only 23 cyber security-related incidents in 2004 compared to a whopping 1,237 in 2007. These were primarily phishing attacks, spread of malicious code/viruses and illegal probing and scanning of computer networks.

In its latest report, the CERT claims e-commerce and financial services have been the chief target of cyber criminals. According to the annual report, 392 cases of phishing, 223 of network probing and 358 of virus propagation were recorded in 2007. In 2004, only three phishing attacks, five virus propagations and 11 cases of network probing had been reported.

While virus propagation is a well-known security issue, government experts are worried about the high incidence of phishing attacks that usually target middle-class people who shop or bank online.

“Phishing is a fraud where a cyber criminal tricks a user and steals confidential online banking information such as bank account numbers, password details or security codes to access online bank accounts,” a senior official in the IT ministry told DNA.

The CERT also monitors website defacement. In 2007, it tracked 5,863 Indian websites that had been defaced by international hackers. It also tracked 1,805 open proxy servers that facilitate anonymous browsing. The agency also detected over 25,000 bot-infected systems.

“Bot-infected systems are computers taken over by remote masters for various kinds of internet network attacks and cyber crimes,” the official said.

The CERT began monitoring cyber security in India soon after it was set up in 2004. Its primary function is to monitor international and domestic internet networks for possible threats. The CERT publishes regular information on its website about the latest internet security threats and constantly updates information on tackling them.

Statistics published by the CERT are at best indicative and do not give the real picture of the cyber crime scene in the country. It only records cases brought to its notice.

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