News Flash – 26 December 2017

National News



Airports on high alert in wake of terror attack intel


NEW DELHI: Be prepared for intensive frisking and baggage security checks at airports this festive season and New Year. The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security(BCAS) has sent an alert to all airports operators and airlines to maintain highest level of vigil in wake of feared terror attacks. “New Year celebration functions are being held throughout the country. This is a vulnerable period. Number of instances have occurred in the past also when this period has been chosen by terrorists/antinational elements to perpetrate act of terrorism,” says the alert sent by BCAS to aviation stakeholders and state police chiefs. “During the year, Pak-based terrorist outfits have already shown their intentions to carry out attacks in the country. During 2017, IS inspired individuals have carried out gruesome attacks in other countries, targeting innocent civilians as well as police personnel. Perpetrators have initiated attacks by suicide bombing, using improvised explosive device-laden vehicle, stabbing, ramming vehicle into crowd and indiscriminate firing in crowded areas,” the note issued with approval of BCAS chief Rajesh Kumar Chandra says. With this alert, the BCAS has asked all agencies to “maintain maximum vigil in the run-up to/during the New Year celebrations”. It has asked for strengthening security measures by “immediately” taking these steps:


* Strict access control to regulate entry into terminal building, airside, all operational area and other aviation facilities;

* Intensive checking of vehicles entering car parking area to preclude possibility of car bomb attacks;

* Enhanced screening of passengers, staff and visitors including enhanced random screening at the main gate;

* Enhanced random check at the entry of terminal building including utilization of bomb disposal squad, dog Squad at the entry point.

* Increase in physical and electronics surveillance including behavior detection.

* Enhanced screening and protection of hold baggage, cargo, cargo terminal, catering, mails.

* Enhanced physical checking of hand baggage at pre embarkation security checks.

* Surveillance through CCTV as well as manual surveillance in and around the terminal building and operational areas;

* Quick reaction teams and perimeter patrolling to be strengthened.

* Manning of all cargo gates and vehicle entry gates will be strengthened with strong armed support. ¢Any other security measures based on the local intelligence inputs.



New train to have CCTV cameras and women cops


MUMBAI: Western Railway announced the installation of CCTV cameras in each coach of the AC local train shortly after it completed its inaugural run on Monday morning. This is being done for passenger safety, apart from deploying policewomen to guard lady’s compartments. Said WR general manager A K Gupta, “Based on commuter feedback, surveillance cameras will also be installed in the nine other AC trains that are being procured.” The second AC train is expected in 2018. The CCTV cams will not only be a deterrent to criminals, but also serve as evidence in case a passenger registers a crime complaint. Sources said the railways may look at installing phone charging points and Wi-Fi, among other facilities. There are concerns that women on the train may feel unsafe because of uninterrupted access among all coaches through vestibules. “There should be a grill or a barricade at least for the ladies compartments,” said Seema Goradia, a commuter. On concerns about high fares, Gupta said the AC local was a “features rich premium train”. “It costs you Rs 165 to travel by the AC local from Borivli to Churchgate, while an AC cab will charge you around Rs 600 for the same distance. So I think the fares are justified, in fact cheaper than travelling by road,” he said.


The WR ran five services on Monday, wherein 579 passengers travelled with bona fide tickets and one commuter was caught without ticket. The day’s earnings through ticket sales was Rs 62,746, said a WR spokesperson. Commuters can also purchase weekly, fortnightly and monthly tickets. The inaugural run was flagged off by state education minister Vinod Tawde, who said that a maximum of young professionals and officegoers from the suburbs should use the train. “You can leave your cars behind or stop travelling by AC cabs. AC train travel will give you convenience, comfort and will also be light on your wallet,” he said. The much-awaited AC local did not see a huge turnout, though the limited footfall can be attributed to the Christmas holiday. People who boarded the decked-up train from Borivli had mainly come for a joyride.



Fire breaks out in posh Malabar Hill tower, limited to builder’s duplex flat


MUMBAI: A fire that broke out in a duplex flat of a posh 31-storey residential tower in Walkeshwar, near Raj Bhavan, on Monday evening was controlled before it could spread and cause a tragedy. All the residents managed to come out safely and no one was injured. The city’s highest firefighting ladder that can rise 90m and reach up to 30 floors was pressed into service, but failed to make much of an impact. Eyewitnesses said they felt there was a lack of expertise and coordination. Six teams of fire-fighters reached the 17- and 18-floor duplex of The Legend by the stairs and doused the blaze after a three-hour operation using fire-fighting systems available in the building. Officials said the blaze started in the flat of builder Vimal Shah, who owns Hubtown (earlier knowns as Ackruti), but the family was not in. Shah reached after hearing about the fire. “There was a lady in the 17-floor level of the flat and its entrance was opened. But the entry to the above level was closed and the fire started there. We are inquiring about how it started and spread to the flat below,” said chief fire officer P Rahangdale. The fire was contained in the 4,000 sq. ft. duplex flat, which was gutted, destroying documents, files, valuables, paintings and other materials, said a fire officer. Residents of the building managed to leave without panic. “We don’t know how the fire started, but people started alerting each other, and even people from nearby buildings called us saying there was a fire and asking us to rush out. We all came out safely,” said one waiting outside the gates.


The security guards said they ensured they alerted the few residents who were unaware of the seriousness of the fire and asked them to evacuate. As news of the fire spread, many of the residents standing outside and anxiously watching the fire-fighting started getting calls from relatives and friends enquiring about their well-being. The fire brigade responded within 15 minutes of the emergency call (see graphic), and its teams took the stairs to reach the flat and douse the fire using the building’s fire system. Outside, the attention of the residents and gawkers were focused on the 90m ladder. After it was properly stationed on the road outside the building entrance and went up, nothing seemed to go right. The hose initially began spraying water in a direction away from the fire; once it was turned in the right direction, the water did not reach the affected flat and instead showered down on the road, drenching the residents. Then there was the constant shouting between the man on top and the person operating it from below. Soon the water ran out, and more precious minutes passed connecting the hose to another tank. Fire officials tried to justify the confusion, saying the ladder takes some time to adjust itself after going up. They said a building’s internal firefighting system is always more effective, and that’s why they insist on maintaining them.



MNC exec killer held as he returned to ATM kiosk


NEW DELHI: Police on Monday found that the gang involved in the robbery and murder of an MNC executive in Gurgaon used his credit card to make multiple purchases. During investigations, police found that the mastermind, Aarif, had used an ATM of a private bank to withdraw Rs 10,000 twice. Following this, a team posing as vendors were posted outside the ATM. A few days later, the bank, where the card was registered, reported that it was swiped to buy goods from a departmental store in Rohini. While scanning through the CCTV footage of the store, police found Aarif leaving the shop with packets of goods. The team waiting outside the ATM was alerted and within a few days, when Aarif visited the kiosk again, he was arrested. Police said that, the kiosk did not have a guard or a CCTV camera at the entrance. The four gang members — Aarif, Nirmal, Ajay and Pratap — who were arrested on Saturday, confessed to have targeted at least a dozen more people in a similar way in Noida, Gurgaon and Lucknow. As a juvenile, Aarif had strangulated his relative and had fled from home. He took up a house in Jahangirpuri and got involved in vehicles thefts. A day after the incident, the gang had again struck another MNC executive in Gurgaon and robbed him of Rs 14,000. They also threatened to kill him citing the previous murder following which the victim agreed to reveal his password. He later approached the Gurgaon police with a complaint.



Gang may have hacked into ATM



NEW DELHI: Two weeks after several people complained about having lost money from their accounts after using an ATM in Kalkaji, the police have not found any of the cloning devices that are usually used in such thefts. This has made them suspect that the machine might have actually been hacked using a different mechanism. Senior police officers confirmed that several cases had been registered recently after people complained of money being debited from their accounts. The common thread was that all of them had recently used an ATM near DDA flats at Kalkaji in south Delhi. Some even lost lakhs of rupees after using the ATM. Initial probe had indicated the use of a skimmer — a machine that is covertly plugged into an ATM to create a copy of the card. The skimmer is usually attached at the place where the card is swiped or, else, an overlay device is put on the keypad of the machine, which notes the PIN of the user. However, investigating officers were surprised to find that none of these bugs were used at the machine in Kalkaji. This made them suspect that the gang at work might have hacked the machine’s computer system to cheat more than a dozen people in quick succession. Police feel that the machine in question might have been attacked with a malware first. The hackers may have then let people use the infected machine, thereby compromising their account details. Cops also suspect that after getting the details, the hackers might have copied them on blank cards and carried out transactions in Mumbai. The police are checking the role of an insider, who may have known about security loopholes in the bank’s network.



Security at stake as dark web puts up ransomware for hire


BENGALURU: It’s becoming easier and more affordable to turn into a cybercriminal. Ransomware is now being offered as a service — like many cloud services are. Not only can you subscribe to ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) on what is known as the dark web, the providers will also give you step-by-step instructions on how to launch an attack. Even a novice can launch sophisticated, and often profitable, attacks. The dark web is a part of the worldwide web that requires special software to access — like Tor or Freenet — and is not indexed by search engines. Once in the network, there are forums of hackers, drug peddlers and others, who guide people to what they are looking for. Ransomware attacks, through the use of service providers, grew from the second half of 2016, said Venugopal N, director of security engineering for India and SAARC in security solutions firm Check Point. “A particular ransomware called Cerber was being offered as a service by 170 people actively last year, and infected nearly 150,000 victims across 200 countries, including India. This number has definitely grown this year,” he said. Average ransom sought was $500/device in bitcoins Once a cybercriminal (service provider) generates the code to a ransomware, it is sold to a user who purchases the package with the intent to hack. The package comes with step-by-step instructions on how to launch the attack, along with a dashboard where the user can monitor the status of the attack.


Ransomware encrypts and locks a victim’s device. The victim gets a decoder to unlock the device only if he pays a ransom. Those who urgently need the device are the most susceptible. The ransom is split, usually 50:50, between the developer and the attacker. The developer can make up to $2 million annually, Venugopal said. Cybercriminals are also paying 5% extra for referring their services to others. While Cerber was the most rampant in the as a service programme, accounting for 25% of all attacks, malwares like Satan, Shark, and Host men were also prominent. The average ransom asked is about $500 per device, and is usually sought in bitcoins. According to security solutions firm Symantec, India was one of the top countries to be affected by ransomware till the first half of 2017, accounting for 4% of all attacks. The US led the list with 29%. Check Point said India was also among those most affected by Cerber. Kartik Shahani, IBM India’s head for integrated security, said this method of attack started in 2008 with a malware called Zeus, which was designed to steal banking credentials from the machine it infected. “It was becoming an organised crime with cybercriminals providing support services for Zeus. It’s easily available. There are also pamphlets provided which teach you how to launch an attack. The price can begin from as low as $20 for a password hack now,” he says.


The gold-rush mentality has pushed more and more cybercriminals to distribute ransomware, which, in turn, has contributed to the rise of RaaS as a specialisation. Tarun Kaura, director of product management for Asia Pacific and Japan, says the ransomware builder freely distributes the ransomware to aspiring attackers and takes a percentage cut of any ransom payment. “It’s easy to attack a network of companies through this. While a lot of the victims were mainly enterprises, it is now also penetrating expensive IoT (internet-of-things) devices like smartwatches and smart TVs. Individuals are not generally aware of these operations and are an easy target,” he said. Experts say there is no way of knowing who the perpetrators are since the mode of payment is always bitcoins. “They create a secure wallet for every victim and leave no trace of who launched the attack,” says Venugopal, adding 90% of the attacks happen through phishing emails. The only preventive action possible is for companies to install anti-ransomware solutions that regularly provide patches for gaps in the security system. IBM’s Shahani says anti-ransomware-as-a-service is a service being provided by white hackers to check vulnerabilities. “Never pay the ransom. Always create a backup, which will ensure that you can reset your systems when attacked,” says Venugopal.



Man fakes robbery to steal Rs 2.7 crore gold from shop, held



KOLKATA: In a well-planned drama that initially looked like a simple case of robbery, an employee looted 9kg gold worth Rs 2.7 crore from a central Kolkata jewellery store on Saturday evening. But the mastermind was in net by Sunday morning after cops acted promptly. The stolen gold was also recovered from his house in Howrah. A Chennai-based businessman has been running the jewellery shop in Rabindra Sarani for years. While he visits Kolkata occasionally, his nephew Manish Chhetri looks after the business. On Saturday evening, Chhetri came to the shop to find the door ajar. He found it unusual as the door is not kept closed at that time of the evening. When Chhetri entered the shop, he found a worker Vani Singh lying unconscious. “Vani’s hands were tied and he was lying on the floor. Chhetri later splashed water on his face. Though still in a state of trance, Vani managed to say that a customer had come to buy jewellery and then asked for a glass of water from him. Vani said the customer threw something on his face when he was getting water for him. Soon after that he reportedly fell unconscious,” said Chhetri. When Chhetri checked the lockers, he found that nine gold bars, each weighing 1kg, were missing.


A complaint was later registered with the Jorasanko police. The detective department also started an investigation into the case and found inconsistencies in Vani’s statements. As they continued to interrogate him, cops felt he was hiding information. During a marathon interrogation, Vani broke down. Cops were surprised to find that it was actually a fake robbery. A consignment of gold was brought to the shop a few days ago after which the plan was hatched. “Vani’s friend Mahinder Singh gave him the idea. The duo had plans to escape once the dust settled down,” said an officer. Based on Vani’s statement, police conducted a raid at the Howrah residence of Mahinder on Sunday morning. Apart from the entire consignment of gold, cops recovered cash of Rs 1.5 lakh from there. Mahinder was arrested and produced at a metropolitan magistrate court on Sunday. He was sent to police custody till January 6.



International News



Vietnam evacuates hundreds of thousands ahead of storm

In this image made from video, people look for bodies amid debris and broken branches on devastated beach in Lanao del Norte, southern Philippines on Dec. 25, 2017.



HANOI (VIETNAM): Hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta have been evacuated as the region braced for the arrival of Typhoon Tembin after the storm left more than 150 people dead in the Philippines. Weather forecasters were expecting the delta’s southern tip to be in Tembin‘s path, and said heavy rain and strong winds starting Monday night could cause serious damage in the vulnerable region, where facilities are not built to cope with such severe weather. National television station VTV reported that several hundred thousand people were being evacuated from their houses, which are mostly made from tin sheets and wooden panels. In Vung Tau city, thousands of fishing boats halted their several-month-long fishing trips to return to shore. Typhoons and storms rarely hit the Mekong Delta. But in 1997, Tropical Storm Linda swept through the region, killing 770 people and leaving more than 2,000 others missing. Over the weekend, Tembin unleashed landslides and flash floods that killed at least 164 people and left 171 others missing in the Philippines. More than 97,000 people remained in 261 evacuation centers across the south on Monday, while nearly 85,000 others were displaced and staying elsewhere. The hardest-hit areas were Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur provinces and the Zamboanga Peninsula. Tembin hit the Philippines as a tropical storm but strengthened into a typhoon before blowing out of the country Sunday into the South China Sea toward Vietnam. Philippine officials had warned villagers in accident-prone areas to evacuate early as Tembin approached and the government was trying to find out what caused the widespread storm deaths, Marina Marasigan of the government’s disaster-response agency said at a news conference in Manila.


She added that it was difficult to move people from homes shortly before Christmas. “We don’t want to be dragging people out of their homes days before Christmas, but it’s best to convince them to quietly understand the importance of why they are being evacuated,” Marasigan said. Tembin was among a series of disasters to hit the predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines at the peak of Christmas holiday preparations. An inter-island ferry sank off northeastern Quezon province Thursday after being lashed by fierce winds and big waves, leaving at least five people dead. More than 250 passengers and crewmen were rescued. Earlier in the week, another tropical storm left more than 50 people dead and 31 others missing, mostly due to landslides, and damaged more than 10,000 houses in the central Philippines. Among the areas battered by Tembin was Marawi, a lakeside city in Lanao del Sur province that is still recovering from a five-month siege by pro-Islamic State group extremists that left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced the entire population of about 200,000 people. The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons and storms each year, making the archipelago that lies on the Pacific typhoon belt one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.



Afghan officials: 6 people killed in suicide attack in Kabul



KABUL: Afghan officials say that a suicide bomber has killed six people in an attack on the capital Kabul. A spokesman for the interior ministry says that the bomber blew himself up today near an office of the country’s intelligence service, killing six people and wounding two. The victims included women who were in a vehicle passing near the attack site. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but recent attacks in the capital have been claimed both by Taliban insurgents and Islamic States group fighters who have stepped up their attacks against Afghan security forces.



Gunmen kill three at cafe south of Egypt capital



CAIRO: Masked gunmen opened fire on a cafe south of the Egyptian capital, killing three people, security officials said Sunday. The attack, which took place overnight in the village of al-Ayat about 50 kilometres (31 miles) from Cairo, left at least five others wounded, they said. While the motivation was unclear officials suspect it was a criminal incident rather than terrorism. State-run newspaper Akhbar al-Youm, citing witnesses, said two attackers arrived on a motorcycle and opened fire on people in the cafe before fleeing. Security officials arrived at the scene and also interviewed injured people in hospital to try to identify and arrest the attackers, the newspaper reported.



At least four dead after bus crashes into Moscow underpass

Rescuers work at the scene of a bus crash in Moscow, Russia.



MOSCOW: Russian authorities say a bus careened off a road and onto steps leading into an underground passageway in Moscow, killing at least four people and leaving 13 others injured. Moscow police said passengers and pedestrians were among those killed in Monday’s crash. Police immediately ruled out a possibility of it being an attack, saying that they suspect a mechanical fault or that the driver lost control of the vehicle. Police were questioning the driver. Photos taken at the scene show the bus on the steps leading into the underground passageway. Russian news agencies reporting from the scene quoted Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin as saying that he has ordered all city buses to be checked in the aftermath of the crash.

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