Prelims level : Cyber Space Challenges Mains level : GS-III Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano technology, Bio-Technology and Issues Relating to Intellectual Property Rights.
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Why in News?

  • The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has warned member countries that cybercriminals are attempting to target major hospitals and other institutions on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 with ransomware.

About International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL):

  • Interpol is an intergovernmental organization that helps coordinate the police force of 194 member countries.
  • Each of the member countries hosts an Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB). This connects their national law enforcement with other countries and with the General Secretariat.
    • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is designated as the National Central Bureau of India.
    • The General Secretariat provides a range of expertise and services to the member countries.
  • It is headquartered in Lyon, France
  • Interpol Notices are international requests for cooperation or alerts allowing police in member countries to share critic.

Key Points:

  • In an alert sent to 194 nations, including India, Interpol said that the hospitals and institutions had become targets of ransomware attacks.
  • Interpol’s Cybercrime Threat Response Team had detected an increase in the number of attempted ransomware attacks against key organisations and infrastructure engaged in the virus response.
  • Cybercriminals are using ransomware to hold hospitals and medical services digitally hostage, preventing them from accessing vital files and systems until a ransom is paid.
    • The attacks were designed to lock these institutions out of their critical systems in an attempt to extort payments.
    • Locking hospitals out of their critical system will delay the swift medical response required during these unprecedented times and it could also directly lead to deaths.
  • The ransomware appears to be spreading primarily via e-mails, often falsely claiming to contain information or advice regarding the coronavirus from a government agency, which encourages the recipient to click on an infected link or attachment.
    • Prevention and Mitigation efforts are crucial to stopping the attacks.
    • Interpol continues to stand by its member countries and provide any assistance necessary to ensure vital healthcare systems remain untouched and the criminals targeting them held accountable.
  • Interpol also issued a Purple Notice to seek or provide information on modus operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.

Changed Pattern of Crimes:

  • Interpol warned that with a majority of people working from home due to the pandemic, there was a change in the pattern of crimes.
  • Following is the change
    • Fraudulent trade in personal protective equipment and anti-viral medicines,
    • Individuals/businesses on reduced income becoming potential targets of loan sharks (Persons who loan money at extremely high interest rates and often use threats of violence to collect debts).
    • The lockdown period has made business establishments/factories vulnerable to thefts.
    • Since more people were at home, the number of burglaries had dropped. But thieves are increasingly targeting factories or business premises that were locked.
  • Domestic violence cases have risen since the start of coronavirus-related quarantines, with reports showing women and children at greater risk of abuse.
  • Recent weeks have seen increased online activity by paedophiles (persons who are sexually attracted to children) seeking child sexual abuse material.
    • This is being intensified by a shortage of moderators who identify and remove offensive material from networks.

Steps Taken by the Government:

  • Alerts received by the Government of India on the threat of ransomware/malware attacks have been communicated to the concerned departments.
  • Institutions and individuals have been appealed not to open any mail or link on coronavirus data or home remedies unless it is from a trusted source like a government agency.
    • They were also cautioned about a possibility of e-mail spoofing, where a suspect operating from a remote location would send a mail that would appear as if it came from a known person.
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