News Flash – 15 February 2020

National News



State Experts Probe 2 Foreign National’s Card Skimming Operation

CASHING OUT: Security camera footage from an ATM shows one of the suspects at work.



Bengaluru: Experts from Karnataka police’s cybercrime division are helping Delhi and Puducherry police to trace the trail of two foreign nationals behind an elaborate card hack in multiple cities. The two white men, investigators suspect, have cracked the security protocol of chip-based credit and debit cards, and are capturing the data of such cards used in ATMs through secretly fitted skimmers. The copied data is used to produce cloned cards, which help them withdraw cash from unsuspecting customers’ accounts. The two have been separately captured on cameras of some ATMs in Delhi and Puducherry; they had partially covered their faces. Investigators believe they also targeted a few cash machines in Tamil Nadu and Mumbai. Karnataka police’s cybercrime experts are helping lead investigators map the two men’s path basically, the ATMs they have targeted — by using a sketch-creating technique called digital superimposition. “The two suspects cover part of their faces before entering ATMs, but we can still produce sketches from the available footage through our expertise in digital superimposition,” said a senior Karnataka officer of the rank of additional director general of police. “If there are sketches, Puducherry and Delhi police can sift through security camera footage and reconstruct their trail and know the extent of their operation”.



The officer revealed that digital superimposition was used in the investigations into the murder of writer activist Gauri Lankesh. “We used the method on blurred images of an assailant who was wearing a helmet. We are not sure if our techniques can stand in court, but they will definitely aid investigations,” the officer said. The foreign nationals, according to police sources, work in stages. The CCTV camera of an ATM in Puducherry showed one of them inserting skimmers, disguised card readers that crooks attach to terminals to harvest data of cards that customers briefly slip in to withdraw cash. Later, the second suspect was seen in the footage of an ATM in Delhi using cloned cards to pull out money. “One captures card data and shares it with the other, who uses it to produce card copies and draw cash. That’s their modus operandi,” an officer said. “The suspect in the Puducherry video did his work in 75 seconds and left. He had put on a monkey cap and kept his head down”. Another senior officer said the two might have struck at several ATMs in Delhi. A lookout notice has already been sent to all the airports in the country. “It seems they also visited some kiosks in Mumbai. If we nab them, we can solve several cases of skimming reported across the country,” the officer said.



States on Coronavirus Alert for Nepal



New Delhi: The Centre has asked five states Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim bordering Nepal to strengthen disease surveillance amid a suspected surge in novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection cases in the neighbouring country. Health secretary Preeti Sudan on Friday asked these states to step up vigil and screening of those travelling from Nepal. During a review meeting, Sudan asked them to regularly assess preparedness and prevent transmission of the virus. Reports said over 100 people are showing symptoms similar to coronavirus infection in Nepal. Special focus is on travellers from there visiting religious and other tourist places in India, an official said. Special health teams have already been deployed in these states. The health ministry maintained the situation is under control and there are adequate stocks of protection equipment.



All Government Buses to be Fitted with 2 Sets of CCTV Cameras


Chennai: All government buses across the state including those operated by Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) in Chennai will soon carry two sets of CCTV cameras to ascertain the cause of accident and ensure passenger safety, deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam, who also holds and the finance portfolio, announced in the assembly on Friday. Nirbhaya fund, which was lying idle for five years, will be utilised for fixing these cameras. It will cost around Rs.75 crores. All buses will have a camera fitted outside rear-view mirrors so that investigating agencies can identify who caused the accident. Radhakrishnan, a MTC conductor, said that every time an MTC bus met with an accident involving a two-wheeler, a case was registered only against the bus driver even if the two-wheeler rider drove in a rash and negligent manner. Drivers can get justice only when they go out of their way to collect CCTV footage from nearby educational institutions or commercial establishments and prove that they weren’t at fault, he added. Not agreeing with this, advocate VS Suresh who deals with road accident cases said that MTC drivers violate traffic rules rampantly and end up causing accidents. But he agreed to the claim that police filed case against the bigger vehicle involved in an accident. “There are no scientific measures adopted in this entire process,” he said.



Another important announcement made by Pannerselvam was that efforts would be made to introduce electronic ticketing system in all buses to enable cashless transactions. “Every conductor will be equipped with a swipe machine in which passengers can swipe their mobility card which they can recharge online. Most probably, this will be a common card which passengers can use in metro rail, suburban trains and buses,” said an MTC official. Another important announcement was regarding the purchase of 2,213 BS VI buses using German funds at an estimated cost of Rs. 1,580 crore and Chennai is expected to get at least one-fifth of it. Other cities in Tamil Nadu will get 525 electric buses under the FAME II scheme for which Rs.960 crores has been sanctioned. It is pending at tender stage. The government has tried to compensate a portion of loses incurred by state transport corporations in terms of fuel hike. Nearly Rs.300 crores has been provided in the budget to compensate for hike in diesel prices. Overall, Rs. 2,716.26 crores has been allotted for the transport department. This is 110% more compared to last year.



International News



1,716 Medical Workers have Contracted the Virus: China

A young passenger from a US cruise ship thanks Cambodia after disembarking in Sihanoukville on Friday. The liner docked after being refused entry at other Asian ports due to fears of the COVID-19 outbreak.



Beijing: A new coronavirus has taken a growing toll of Chinese health workers on the front line of the fight to stop it, a top official said on Friday, as authorities reported more than 5,000 new cases, including more than 120 deaths. Policymakers pledged to do more to stimulate economies hit by the virus, helping Asian stock markets edge higher, with Chinese shares headed for their first weekly gain in four. China’s national health commission said it had recorded 121 new deaths and 5,090 new coronavirus cases on the mainland on Thursday, taking the total number of infected to 63,851. Some 55,748 people are being treated, while 1,380 people have died of the virus that emerged in December in Wuhan, capital of the central province of Hubei. The latest toll takes account of some deaths that had been double counted in Hubei, the national health commission said. The Chinese health commission vice-minister, Zeng Yixin, said 1,716 health workers had been infected and six had died as of Tuesday, with the number of infected staff rising. “The duties of medical workers at the front are indeed extremely heavy; their working and resting circumstances are limited, the psychological pressures are great, and the risk of infection is high,” Zeng told a news conference. Chinese officials and hospitals have repeatedly spoken of a shortage of protective equipment, including face masks. The new figures for total infections gave no sign the outbreak was nearing a peak, said Adam Kamradt-Scott, an infectious diseases expert at the Centre for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney.



“While the Chinese authorities are doing their best to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the fairly drastic measures they have implemented to date would appear to have been too little, too late,” he said. Chinese scientists are testing two antiviral drugs and preliminary results are due in weeks, while the head of a Wuhan hospital said plasma infusions from recovered patients had shown some encouraging preliminary results. Meanwhile, the official Beijing Daily said on Friday that all people returning to the Chinese capital should quarantine themselves for 14 days to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Those who refuse to quarantine themselves or follow the official rules on virus containment will be punished, the newspaper said. While the vast majority of infections and deaths have been in China, in particular Hubei, there have been nearly 450 cases in some 24 countries and territories outside mainland China, and three deaths. The biggest cluster of infections outside China has been on a cruise liner quarantined in a Japanese port, with 218 people on board confirmed as infected and taken off to hospital. On Friday, some of the ship’s passengers were allowed to disembark – with priority for older passengers confined to windowless cabins — and complete their quarantine on shore. Economists are scaling back growth expectations for the world’s second-largest economy as they assess the impact of the outbreak. China will grow at its slowest rate since the global financial crisis this quarter, according to a Reuters poll of economists who said the downturn would be short-lived if the outbreak was contained.

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