News Flash – 25 May 2017

National News



Mumbai University plans full CCTV cover



MUMBAI: The University of Mumbai is to get CCTV surveillance across its Kalina campus, a move first planned in 2014. In a meeting with minister of state for higher education Ravindra Waikar on Wednesday, senior university officials made the assurance that the tender for the equipment would be invited in a month. Around 200 CCTV cameras are required for the 280-acre campus in Kalina, said officials. The proposal to install CCTV cameras on campus for security reasons has been pending for long and the university has been allocating funds for the last three years for the purpose. In 2016-17, Rs 90 lakh was allocated under the head ‘special equipment for security’. Waikar directed the university to invite tenders within a week. Today, CCTV cameras are installed only in sensitive places like the exam house. It was also decided that the swimming pool on the campus would be reconstructed with around Rs 15 crore as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity. The minister also asked the university to send notices to all colleges that had failed to pay the affiliation fees.



BTech student held for ATM fraud



NEW DELHI: A 22-year-old BTech student, Mukul Rajpat, was arrested on Tuesday from his residence in Kalkaji for duping banks of around Rs 1 lakh through ATM fraud. While scanning through online videos Rajput came across a post showing a person override system functions of an ATM by placing his finger in between the shutter of the cash dispensing unit. Rajput then used the technique to withdraw small amounts — Rs 5000-10,000 — from ATM machines. He would later approach the bank with a “failed transaction” slip and get the money reimbursed to his account. An alert security guard of an HDFC ATM, Santosh, found Rajput’s actions suspicious and reported it to the police on Tuesday. Santosh is a member of the “Prahari” scheme launched by Delhi Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik to include security guards and chowkidars in community policing. A case of cheating was registered based on a complaint by the manager of the HDFC bank at Kalkaji.

Rajput told police that he had scanned through websites to look for ways to hack into an ATM after a challenge from his friend. While looking for videos, he found a page where the user showed that if one can hold the shutter of the cash dispensing unit of an ATM for some time, the machine gets disconnected from the satellite server leading to an error. This does not record a transaction in the books of the bank even if the cash is dispensed from the machine. Romil Baaniya, DCP southeast, said that banks too reimbursed the amount to Rajput’s account as per the procedure within a stipulated time after verification, which did not show a malfunction in the machine. Rajput told officers that he used to withdraw cash from different ATMs using cards of his friends, so that the banks did not get suspicious. Police have recovered some cards belonging to his friends from his house.



‘Mini blasts’ spark panic on Metro



NEW DELHI: Rajiv Chowk Metro station, the busiest in the network, witnessed scenes of panic during the morning rush hours on Wednesday following a spark and what sounded like mini explosions in a train. At 10.17am, passengers on a train on the Yellow line (HUDA City Centre to Samaypur Badli) — coming from the Central Secretariat side — saw the spark in its rear part and also heard two minor blasts. Smoke also started coming out from the rear part of the train, causing panic. As the train reached the packed Rajiv Chowk station, all commuters were immediately evacuated as a safety measure. “Passengers were accommodated in the next train within eight minutes,” said a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) spokesperson. None of the passengers was injured. The incident, however, resulted in disruption of train services on the busy line during the morning rush hours. Instead of the peak-hour frequency of two and a half minutes, the next train towards Samaypur Badli was available only after eight minutes. Normal train services remained affected for about half an hour.

The spark and the explosions were caused perhaps by a short circuit in the air-conditioning system. DMRC, however, remained tightlipped about the actual reason. “A minor smoke was reported from the air-conditioning of the last coach of a train heading towards Samaypur Badli,” the spokesperson said. “The train has been sent to the depot for further analysis and investigation. Train services are running normal on the line,” he added. Short circuits and overheating resulting in smoke coming out of trains is not an unusual issue on the Delhi Metro lines. In December last year, a train had to be evacuated after smoke started billowing from its last coach at Patel Nagar station on the snag-prone Blue line (Noida/Vaishali to Dwarka/Dwarka Sector 21). Incidents of technical snags disrupting services have become common in the past one year, particularly on the Blue line that carries the largest number of commuters in the entire Delhi Metro network — more than 10 lakh per day.



5 Lakh mosquito nets to prevent diseases in tribal areas



HYDERABAD: Health minister C Laxma Reddy on Wednesday directed Telangana State Medical Services Infrastructure Development Corporation (TSMSIDC) to distribute five lakh mosquito nets in the agency areas to prevent spread of communicable diseases in the upcoming rainy season. During a review of steps taken to tackle seasonal and communicable diseases, especially in the agency and tribal areas, the health minister directed officials to prepare a plan of action to curb these diseases. During the meeting, Reddy asked officials to take up cleaning, spraying and other precautionary measures to reduce the mosquito population and ordered them to complete the work in the months of June and July. The minister also ordered them to stock all medical supplies and keep other necessary equipment needed in case of emergency.

“Under the leadership of district collector, a meeting should be organized with the officials of municipality, corporation and other departments concerned and based on the problems that a particular village is facing, the officials should prepare a plan of action to curb the spread of seasonal and communicable diseases,” the health minister said. Citing Adilabad district as an example, the minister said: “Because of the precautionary measures we had taken in the Adilabad district last year, the death rate due to seasonal and communicable disease has come down. In the same way, this year precautionary measures should be taken in all districts and tribal areas to curb the spread of diseases”. He ordered the district collectors to conduct regular meetings and awareness camps about the diseases. “General public should be involved and awareness about seasonal and communicable diseases should be increased so that they are equipped to face emergencies,” said Reddy. The minister also advised collectors to recruit required manpower on a contract basis or through outsourcing with the allocated budget.



Yellow alert issued, Ahmedabad records 42 degrees celsius



AHMEDABAD: With the mercury remaining above the 40°C mark at 11 of the 23 places monitored by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) Gujarat, Ahmedabad was also scorched on Wednesday. With the temperature likely to rise above 42°C, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) issued a “yellow alert” for the city from Thursday to Saturday. The IMD also issued a high temperature warning for Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions, stating that heat wave conditions are likely to prevail at places in these regions on Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, the city was humid with a maximum temperature of 42°C. This was the second highest temperature in the state, next only to Kandla, at 42.8°C. The minimum temperature in Ahmedabad on Wednesday was 27.6°C while relative humidity ranged from 62% to 35%. According to a statement from the AMC, the city is likely witness extreme heat and the maximum temperature is likely to cross 44°C on Sunday. The AMC issued an orange alert for the city on Sunday and advised citizens to avoid direct exposure of the sun. IMD officials said south-westerly to westerly winds have brought moisture to the Gujarat region, due to which humidity levels rose across the state.



International News



Suspected Manchester bomber’s father, brother arrested in Libya



TRIPOLI: The father and the younger brother of the suicide bomber who killed 22 people at a concert venue in Manchester+ have been arrested in Tripoli, a spokesman for a local counter-terrorism force said on Wednesday. The counter-terrorism force detained the father, Ramadan Abedi, outside his home in the Tripoli suburb of Ayn Zara on Wednesday afternoon. A witness said he was handcuffed by armed men who drove him away in two unmarked vehicles. The force, known as Rada, detained the brother Hashem Abedi, who was born in 1997, on Tuesday evening on suspicion of links to Islamic State, spokesman Ahmed Bin Salem said. He did not give any details on the reasons why the father was arrested.

But Hashem Abedi had been in touch with attacker Salman Abedi, Bin Salem said, and was suspected of planning to carry out an attack in the Libyan capital. “We have evidence that he is involved in Daesh (Islamic State) with his brother. We have been following him for more than one month and a half,” Bin Salem said. “He was in contact with his brother and he knew about the attack”. He said the younger brother had travelled from London to Tripoli on April 16. Salman Abedi, 22, was born in Britain to Libyan parents. Britain’s interior minister said earlier that he had recently returned from Libya and had likely not acted alone. His father lives in Tripoli.



ISIS claims first suicide attack in Somalia, kills 5

MOGADISHU: The Islamic State group has claimed its first suicide attack in Somalia, which police said Wednesday killed five people at a checkpoint in the northeastern port city of Bosaso. The group’s self-styled news agency Amaq claimed the “martyrdom-seeking operation with an explosive vest” in a statement carried by the SITE Intelligence Group. The suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest at a checkpoint late Tuesday in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. “Security forces stopped the suspect when he approached but he detonated himself leaving five people dead. One of the security officers and four civilians were killed in the blast,” said local police official Mohamed Dahir Adan. The blast occurred near a hotel often used as a meeting place for local officials, witnesses said.

“I think the bomber was trying to target the hotel but he was stopped at the checkpoint close to the hotel and he decided to detonate his explosives,” said witness Awke Mohamed. Puntland set up its own government in 1998, but, unlike neighbouring Somaliland, it has not declared full independence. The region has often come under attack by Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militants, and is also home to a breakaway group of fighters which declared allegiance to IS last year but has failed to gather much support so far. The militants are led by former Shabaab cleric Abdiqadir Mumin who was placed on a US terror list last August for his role at the head of IS in East Africa.



Jury out on North Korea link to ransomware attack



WASHINGTON: Was North Korea behind the ransomware epidemic that hit global computer networks earlier this month?. That’s the subject of heated debate in cybersecurity circles after analysts found similarities in the “WannaCry” worm to other malware attributed to North Korea, including the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures and a cyber-heist of millions of dollars from the Bangladesh central bank. The security firm Symantec this week said the shared code makes it “highly likely” that the attacks were connected to the hacker group given the code name Lazarus, which many believe is North Korean. Israel-based cybersecurity firm Intezer last week reached a similar conclusion, finding that WannaCry had “strong links to other malware families, believed to be developed by North Korean hackers, or known to be used in attacks against South Korean organizations”. Russian-based security firm Kaspersky Labs and others also pointed to a likely North Korean link. While the evidence is not conclusive – hackers can often hide or “spoof” their real identities — North Korea is emerging as one of the likely suspects despite a strong denial by the Pyongyang envoy to the United Nations, some analysts say.

Symantec researchers said that despite the likely North Korea link, the WannaCry attacks “do not bear the hallmarks of a nation-state campaign but are more typical of a cybercrime campaign”. “I could easily see North Korea doing this as a way to get money,” said Paul Benda, a Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security official who is now chief technology officer at Global Security and Innovative Strategies, a Washington consultancy. “With the sanctions they are under they need cold hard cash”. Other analysts have noted that sanctions squeezing Pyongyang may be prompting desperate actions to raise cash through various channels, including cybercrime. “While years of sanctions have isolated the Hermit Kingdom from much of the global financial system, North Korea may be seeking to fund the state’s coffers through a widespread cybercrime campaign,” said FireEye analyst Luke McNamara in a recent post on the Lawfare blog. Paradoxically, he said, the effort to persuade and other nations to pressure North Korea may be encouraging further cyberattacks: “Pyongyang would be left with few options to compensate for lost income that it could ramp up as quickly as cybercrime”.

The attacks discovered last week caused havoc in global computer networks, affecting as many as 300,000 machines in 150 countries and disrupting governments and several industries. The hackers developed the virus to exploit a flaw exposed in leaked documents from the National Security Agency. But despite the growing concerns over North Korea, some analysts say it’s too soon to point the finger and cite inconsistencies with the Pyongyang connection. The WannaCry attack appeared unsophisticated: researchers were able to halt the spread with a $10 purchase of a web domain that activated a “kill switch”. And various estimates showed the “ransom” raised amounted to a paltry $116,000 from 302 entities more than a week after computers were locked down. James Scott, a senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, said WannaCry was “barely functional” and spread widely only because of the large number of networks and computers which failed to upgrade security and were vulnerable to the self-replicating “worm”. The hackers known as Lazarus are a sophisticated cyber mercenary group, Scott told AFP. “They use elaborate traps, obfuscation techniques and wipers to eliminate digital footprints. This (WannaCry) has none of that”.

More likely, Scott said, is that the attacks were carried out by hackers from China’s People’s Liberation Army “moonlighting” in their spare time. Scott, who disputes the widely held belief that the Lazarus group is North Korean, said it is possible that Pyongyang has outsourced some of its cybercrime to these freelance Chinese hackers. Analysts at Boston-based security firm Cyber Eason also questions the role of North Korea. “Nothing in North Korea’s past cyber campaigns or in their conventional military and foreign policy fit this mold,” the researchers said in a blog. John Arquilla, chair of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, said that despite the common patterns in the recent attacks, cyber forensics still have a long way to go to positively identify the source of an attack. “We are not at the level of CSI,” he said, referring to the popular television criminal forensics show. “We have to be very careful about the potential for deception. I would not rush to take military or economically coercive actions on the basis of what might or might not be the truth” on the source of the attacks, Arquilla said.

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