Google Search Engine a Money Minting Hub for Cyber Criminals

Friday, 15 January 2021


Google Search Engine a Money Minting Hub for Cyber Criminals

Atiqul Habib | November 16, 2019 16:42 hrs

GUWAHATI: In the age of internet, cyber-criminals are the new entrepreneurs in these days of smartphones and e-payment gateways in India. Guwahati is no different and the most commonly and blindly used Search Engine – Google is playing havoc.

It is to be mentioned that cyber-criminals are like entrepreneurs of the 21st century who have identified innovative ways to capitalise on others’ failings. They succeed because the attack surface is expanding and cyber security hasn’t caught on in India so far as it should have.

Going by the order of the week, in Guwahati on November 15, a city resident, Monsoon Doley's three bank accounts were fraudulently transacted on after the victim gave a call to an online shopping customer care number for a refund as the victim failed to get any contact numbers from the shopping app. 

According to reports, the victim called the number available after a Google search and the customer care executive said that due to some technical glitch they will not be able to refund the money via e-wallet and hence would require the victim’s phone number for payment via Google Pay.

However, the customer allegedly refused to share her phone number but the sleight-minded executive asked her to call back from her registered phone number. There they sent her a link wherein she had to fill in the details like Transaction Id, Name and Phone Number. Upon clicking the link and on filling the form she got a notification from SBI that her account had been debited and within 3 minutes money was debited from her HDFC bank account as her phone number was linked with all the accounts. Hence, she lost over 1 lakh rupees to cyber criminals.

Although she has lodged FIRs in Bhangagarh and Basistha police stations, a positive response is yet to be received.

On November 14, a resident of Guwahati was cheated after she tried to book a table at Isle Natura, a popular resort in Panikhaiti. Around Rs 10,000 was fraudulently withdrawn from her account when she called the resort’s number, as listed on Google (7632098518).

Talking to G Plus, Pathak said, “I found the number on Google, which showed that it was of Isle Natura, Panikhaiti. After receiving the call, they asked me to transfer Rs 900 and also had sent a form where I had to fill my details along with my ‘BHIM UPI’ number, as a part of an advance towards booking the table. In a short while, I received a message that Rs 10,000 was deducted from my account."

“I also went to the bank and took out the details of the account and have submitted it to the police station but till now I have not received any update about the case,” she added.

Hemen Sarma, Owner of Isle Natura, stated that they were not aware about the fraudulent number registered in Google listings. He also assured his full cooperation in the case. 
Again on the same day, a Guwahatian became a victim of another phone scam after Rs 35,000 was fraudulently withdrawn from her account when she tried to order food from a city-based cafe through food ordering app, Zomato. 

The victim has been identified as Yasmin Begum. She alleged that she had placed an order from a popular cafe through the food delivery app. Soon after, she was notified that her order has been cancelled and an amount was deducted. She called the Zomato customer care by taking the number from Google listings.

“The Zomato customer care executive stated that I will receive a call back regarding the matter. 

Instantly, I received a call from another number and the person said that he will text me a link of a form which I will have to forward to a different number for the refund. In the particular form I also had to fill my ‘Google Pay UPI’ number details. I trusted the call and did as per the instructions as I had found the number on Google listings,” said Begum talking to G Plus.

"Soon after around Rs 35,000 was deducted from my account," she added.

Meanwhile, the victim has lodged a complaint at the Dispur Police Station and more details in this regard are awaited.

Cyber criminals not only target internet users via website but also by app-based chat boxes like WhatsApp among others.

Experts feel although end-to-end encrypted messaging platforms Telegram and Signal may have found traction among users after the alleged spyware attack on Facebook-owned WhatsApp recently, cyber security researchers say it is a fallacy to think these platforms are not vulnerable to threats.

Both Telegram and Signal provide multiple features that offer an additional layer of privacy to chats, but experts say they still are not immune from cyber attacks.

According to reports, cyber crimes reported in India rose 19 times over the last ten years (2005 to 2014), from 481 in 2005 to 9,622 in 2014, and India is now ranked third – after the US and China – as a source of “malicious activity” on the internet and second as a source of “malicious code.”

In the meanwhile, a more holistic approach should be taken to tackle cyber crimes via training and increasing cyber awareness for all citizens using technology for daily use.

According to the Online Trust Alliance, 93% of all breaches in 2017 could have been prevented by basic cyber hygiene.

Initiating regular short training sessions for the entire workforce, exploring topics such as phishing – so that employees are primed to recognise a threat and know who to alert – is a must-do activity.

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