News Flash – 31 July 2017

National News



India vulnerable to cyber-crime, must upgrade defence: Study



NEW DELHI: Demonetisation and the subsequent push for digitisation has escalated risks relating to cyber-crime and India needs to urgently upgrade its defences by setting up a cyber-security commission on the lines of the Atomic Energy and Space Commissions, according to an IIT Kanpur study shared with Parliament‘s committee on finance. Noting that the government has initiated a number of programmes to enhance the participation of citizens in the fully digitalized economy, the study said cyber-security centres set up by the Reserve Bank of India would be insufficient. “While RBI centres often come to IITs such as IIT-K for expert opinion, IITs do not engage in relevant research on cyber-security,” the study said. Incidents of cyber-crime in India are rising sharply, recording an increase of over 100% in 2015 from 2014. The number grew from 71,780 in 2013 to 1.49 lakh in 2014 to 3 lakh in 2015. The study said attacks from the ‘Equation group’ — which WikiLeaks reports said was a clandestine CIA and NSA programme — infected India’s telecom and military sectors and research institutes. The committee was briefed by Profs Manindra Agrawal and Sandeep Shukla from IIT Kanpur. The study pointed out that since the government was pushing Aadhaar-based financial transactions, securing the Aadhaar database against unauthorised usage must be looked at carefully. It has come to light that certain banks were making hundreds of transactions on the Aadhaar numbers of unsuspecting citizens.


Cyber-attacks affected over 3 million ATM, debit cards in 2016: Recent revelations about leakage of Aadhaar data and corresponding transaction data are serious concerns as the government is integrating Aadhaar number to various services,” the study said. Post-demonetisation, digital wallets such as PayTM and BHIM gained prominence. However, with increase in online transactions, last year also saw cyber-attacks that compromised more than 3 million ATM and debit cards through Hitachi-engineered ATM machine hacking. The experts said a wider net needed to be cast by the Indian banking system and the government to engage cyber-security experts from top institutes as an advanced layer of protection was missing in most financial institutions. Quoting a report, IIT-K experts said India may need $4 billion investment in the private-public model. In their recommendations, experts said companies must have a chief cyber-security officer and data systems should function on a need-to-know basis. The experts felt that existing cyber-security frameworks like CERT-IN was inadequate as there were insufficient inter-disciplinary connections and the government-private sector partnership was neither deep enough nor did it provide the required expertise.



Alcoholic arrested for two bomb hoax calls to railway helpline



MUMBAI: A 50-year-old man who allegedly made two bomb hoax calls to the railways within a month was arrested by the railway police crime branch on Thursday. Babu Chauhan, a pavement dweller, was traced with the help of CCTV grabs. As the hoax calls were registered as a non-cognizable offence, the police had to take a railway court’s permission to arrest Chauhan. He has been sent to judicial custody. According to the police, Chauhan is a native of Ahmedabad. On July 13, the railway helpline ‘182’ received an anonymous phone call at 10.44 am. The caller said “there would be blasts at Churchgate station just like the explosions in Srinagar“. The authorities went into a tizzy and Churchgate station was thoroughly combed. Nothing untoward was found. The police then checked the number from where the anonymous call had been made. The number was traced to a public phone booth outside platform 1of Churchgate station. The police then checked CCTV footage for 10.44 am in the stretch near the PCO booth. They noticed Chauhan speaking on the phone. Through their informants, the cops tracked down Chauhan. Investigations revealed that Chauhan, an alcoholic, had made another hoax call on July 5 around 7.55 pm, saying “explosives were arriving from Kharghar and police bandobast be increased at all stations on July 6″. On interrogation, Chauhan claimed that he had overheard a group of suspicious-looking men talking about explosives and Kharghar station. “He dialed the railway helpline as he had often seen the number “182” pasted on walls of the disabled compartment,” said inspector Santosh Dhanvate of GRP crime branch. The police are said they are not buying Chauhan’s version and suspect he has made more hoax calls in the past.



Petrol pumps to get vapour recovery systems



NEW DELHI: Delhi may get vapour recovery systems at all its petrol pumps by September 30, 2017. Delhi environment minister Imran Hussain on Saturday reviewed the progress on their installation by oil companies. The review meeting was attended by senior officials of the environment department, DPCC and oil companies. During the meeting, officials of Hindustan Petroleum said that they have installed vapour recovery systems at 95 of their petrol pumps out of 97. Bharat Petroleum has completed installation at 31 petrol pumps out of 42 and Indian Oil Corporation has installed the system at 60 out of their 190 stations. Vapour recovery systems prevent evaporation of petrol and diesel while tankers are filled at fuel stations. Petrol contains volatile organic compounds including Benzene that evaporate inside the fuel tank of a vehicle and fill the space above the liquid fuel. When a vehicle is refueled, these vapors are forced out from the fuel tank by incoming fuel and unless controlled, these vapour escape into the atmosphere. “Vapour recovery systems not only help to curb the release of toxic volatile organic compounds but also reduce evaporative losses of valuable fuel,” said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, executive director at CSE.



Drink-driving cases down by 40% after highway liquor ban



MUMBAI: Even as deadly potholes continue to trap motorists, a review of road accidents in the period April 1 to June 30, that is after the highway liquor ban came into effect, shows that people have started driving more cautiously. The number of drink driving cases on the state’s highways went down by 40% during April-June this year as compared to the same period last year. As for deaths and injuries, these went down by 11-14%. Data collected by the state police suggests that minor accidents, where no injuries were caused, dropped by almost 21% in the period under consideration. Amitesh Kumar, joint commissioner of police (traffic), said it would be premature to judge the long term impact of the highway liquor ban at this stage, though the decline in accidents indicate an encouraging trend. He said the decline was also caused by positive intervention by the police and cooperation from motorists, who stayed away from liquor before driving. “The police’s initiatives, such as the setting up of alco-booths at hotels to help people measure their blood alcohol levels before driving, are helping a lot,” said Kumar.


A senior state police officer who analyses road accidents and drink driving data said the decline in accidents, deaths and injuries cannot be fully attributed to the liquor ban. “A closer reading of the data suggests that a substantial number of cases showing decline are from Maharashtra‘s cities and towns that have a lower proportion of state and national highways. The proportions of drink-driving cases and accidents under the influence of liquor were even otherwise lower on highways compared to ordinary roads,” he said. “Also, there are dhabas that are still serving liquor”. According to excise department sources, as the ban will get stricter, involving raids on those who supply liquor illegally, a further drop in drink-driving cases and accidents would be visible.



Shop burglary in Bengaluru; gang held



BENGALURU: The city market police have arrested a gang of habitual offenders allegedly involved in theft and robbery. Ratan Lal, Pema Ram, Ramesh and Babu Lal, all aged between 25 and 30 years are in police custody, while another gang member Bunda Ram (30) is at large. The gang had burgled an electrical appliances shop in Chikkapete on 16 July and robbed Rs 18.62 lakh worth electric cables and Rs 4.5 lakh cash. They had decamped with 98 boxes of Finolex cables they loaded on a Omni van. As part of their modus operandi, Ratan Lal and Pema Lal befriended Meetha Lal, manager at the shop, and managed to get job. During their stay at the shop, they duplicated the key of the central locking of the shop and they opened it on the Sunday holiday on July 17. The police officials said they had recovered the electrical cable from the gang and the cash is yet to be recovered, which is learnt to be with Bunda Ram, who is on the run. The police said they are all from Rajasthan and came to Bengaluru a few years back. Ratan Lal and Pema Lal were staying at a room in Srirampura and the rest were staying in Chikkabanavara. The gang was nabbed in Srirampura on 26 July. The investigators said the gang had similar cases registered against them in RMC Yard and Central Police station.



Skimming frauds return, ATM-goers on the edge



HYDERABAD: Musician Rajesh Tripathi (name changed) was horrified to receive SMSes from his bank informing that Rs 1 lakh had been withdrawn from his account through multiple transactions at ATMs located in Allahabad around 2am on July 28 when Tripathi was sound asleep at his home in Hyderabad and his debit card was safely ensconced in his wallet. Ditto for Meghna Dundi, who woke up to the shocking discovery that `50,000 had been taken out from her bank account via multiple transactions at Patna ATMs in the wee hours of July 28 through her debit card, and Bhargav Iyer, who was robbed of `13,500 through fraudulent transactions in Allahabad. Dundi, who filed a complaint with the Bowenpally Police on Saturday and has blocked her card, is now hoping that the cops will crack the case and get her money back. Tripathi, who is still in shock, said: “I received 10 messages from my bank stating that I had withdrawn `10,000 in each transaction. All the messages came within a matter of minutes in the middle of the night. I have filed a police complaint.” In the last six days, at least four residents of the city have approached the police after their bank balances were reduced to nil thanks to miscreants cloning their debit cards and siphoning away anywhere between `13,000 to `1lakh. The sudden spurt in such thefts has left the police department flummoxed as skimming cases have not been reported in the city over the last six years. According to cops, the fact that skimming is surfacing now shows that cyber-criminals are now falling back on “older techniques” to make easy money.


KCS Raghuveer, ACP (cyber-crime), Hyderabad police, confirmed that all the victims had fallen prey to skimming. “It is surprising that this scam has surfaced again. This was widely used by criminals six to seven years ago, but since the modus operandi was too cumbersome, it had gradually lost favour with criminals,” he said. Incidentally, over the last two years, it is the One-Time Password scam that has been ruling the roost in the city, which is why even the police department has been training its guns on OTP scams. According to Vijay Shekhar, principal researcher, IIIT Hyderabad: “In online frauds, the trend shows that the number of skimming scams had come down and OTP scams have risen, primarily because of the police department’s action in this matter. But now, with the increase in cashless trans actions and people becoming more cautious about OTP scams, scamsters could be looking at rehashing old scams to make money”. PVS Anand, associate professor, CR Rao Advanced Institute of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Sciences, said that skimming requires more paraphernalia, like a reader, which stores all the information, and a pin-hole camera to note the PIN, which is why it had lost its charm for fraudsters. Explaining the modus operandi of skimmers, Anand said: “Whenever a debit or credit card is swiped on a compromised machine, the ATM card number and CVV number are noted by the reader and transmitted to the thief. Then, all he has to do is note the PIN number, which he gets through the pinhole camera. He can then clone the card and use it.



Top cop asks ‘Police Mitras’ to be vigilant before August 15



NEW DELHI: This Independence Day, 2000 newly-inducted special police officers (SPOs or police mitras) will act as “eyes and ears” for Delhi Police. These SPOs will ensure that the block and local markets they are assigned are sanitized and no untoward incident happens. Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik on Saturday reviewed the security measures and took stock of the arrangements planned for August 15. On Saturday, Patnaik met up with the SPOs — who are farmers, homemakers, self-employed individuals, social workers, retired officials, students, advocates and former army men — at Siri Fort, asking them to be an integral part of the security apparatus. All DCPs were asked to hold meetings with secondhand car owners to be fully assured about the identity and antecedents of the buyer. The police chief has also asked officers to immediately rectify defective CCTV cameras across the city. Vigil has also been heightened in popular markets in south and central Delhi, apart from Lutyens Delhi. The Delhi Police SWAT teams have also been put on alert and positioned at vital locations.



Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams to ramp up security, make Tirumala a fortress



TIRUMALA: Anti-socials beware. The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) is planning to ramp up its security infrastructure by installing equipment such as high-resolution cameras with facial recognition technology. The new state-of-the-art security features that are in the pipeline will cost an estimated Rs 15 crore, and some of them are expected to be put in place by the time the annual Brahmotsavams begin in September. The TTD is planning to double the number of closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) from the present 640 to about 1,300. These new cameras would be of a higher resolution of about 4 MP as compared to the existing 1.3 MP CCTV cameras. Some of these cameras, especially those at the Alipiri toll/security gate would be equipped with facial recognition technology. These cameras would be mounted on the door frame metal detectors (DFMD) through which pilgrims have to pass after they alight from their vehicles at Alipiri for security check. Their luggage, as usual, would go through baggage scanners.



Security Guard crushed as car driver speeds up ‘by mistake’



KOLKATA: A 45-year-old security guard was killed in a freak accident on Friday evening outside a bungalow in New Alipore‘s A block. Around 7.30pm, Rathindra Nath Banerjee was at the bungalow’s main gate chatting with Shew Kumar Singh (60), a driver, when a Honda City drove up to them. When Banerjee went up to the car, the driver said he had to deliver a gift to one of the residents. “I saw him bending down and opening the main gate when the car suddenly accelerated and crashed into the gates. Banerjee came under its wheels and I hurt one of my hands when the car hit me,” Singh told cops. The loud crash brought several people to the spot, but the driver of the Honda City fled without the car. Banerjee and Singh were taken to CMRI Hospital where the guard was declared dead on arrival. The New Alipore police have registered a case under IPC sections 304A, 338 and 427 — all bailable. Police added that they had identified the accused but were yet to nab him. “It seems the driver had pressed the accelerator instead of the brakes by mistake,” said an officer. The case has been transferred to the Fatal Squad of traffic police, but New Alipore police first want to ascertain if the victim and the accused shared any previous enmity. Police said that besides Singh, there were a few other witnesses to the accident. “We are going to make a watertight case,” said an officer at Lalbazar. A resident of Bhattacharjee Para Road in Thakurpukur, Banerjee joined as a security guard at this mansion a few months back. His agency had promised to shift him closer home soon.



Dengue prevention: 40 builders fined by corporation



CHENNAI: City health officials have found a new weapon against dengue: An eight-decade-old law that empowers power the state to prosecute people who allow mosquitoes to breed on their properties. Greater Chennai Corporation’s health department has inspected 3,000 construction sites in the city since July 15 and collected spot fines of Rs 2 lakh from 40 builders for violating the law. City health officer Dr. N A Senthilnathan said the department first issued notices to the errant builders, asking them to remove breeding sources of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — the type that acts as a vector and transmits dengue. “When they refused to comply even after two warnings, we penalised them,” Senthilnathan said. Sections 83 and 84 of the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939, permit civic bodies to penalize owners of premises on which water collects, which could endanger people living nearby by becoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Health officials in Chennai are now taking action against builders and commercial establishments but, in the districts, they have been much more proactive, penalising even residents after coercive tactics failed. “Our sanitary inspectors have been going from door to door and asking residents to remove breeding sources,” director of public health K Kolandaisamy said, adding that many of these officials faced resistance from residents.



“When repeated warnings were unheeded, local bodies collect fines based on the area of the property”. The fines vary from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000. The Aedes aegypti mosquito usually lays its eggs in water free of other organisms. The larvae of these mosquitoes thrive in uncovered barrels, tyres, coconut shells, discarded plastic cups and containers, construction material and in puddles on building sites and elsewhere. Field inspectors say they found larvae even in elevator ducts and trays for flowerpots. From January to July 23, Tamil Nadu accounted for 5,013 of the 26,000 dengue cases in the country — second only to Kerala (12,906). State health officials have stepped up surveillance in eight districts — Kanyakumari, Salem, Coimbatore, Erode, Tirunelveli, Tirupattur, Tuticorin and Namakkal — where incidence of dengue is high. Doctors in Chennai have reported only few cases of dengue, but public health experts have increased vigil in areas like Tambaram, Pallavaram and other areas bordering Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, where there is major construction activity.



International News



Ten killed as Venezuela vote turns violent

Anti-government activists attack and set on fire a National Traffic Police station during a protest in Caracas.



CARACAS: A wave of bloodshed swept Venezuela Sunday as troops cracked down on violent protests against elections to choose the members of a powerful assembly that President Nicolas Maduro has tasked with writing a new constitution. Protesters attacked polling stations and barricaded streets around the country, drawing a bloody response from security forces, who opened fire with live ammunition in some cases. At least 10 people were killed, prompting the United States to threaten further “strong and swift” sanctions on Maduro’s government. Senior opposition leader Henrique Capriles called on Venezuelans to continue defying the deeply unpopular Maduro with new protests against the election and the “massacre” he said accompanied it. “We do not recognize this fraudulent process,” he said at the close of voting, calling for nationwide marches Monday and a mass protest in Caracas Wednesday, the day the new “Constituent Assembly” is due to be installed. Maduro has decreed a ban on protests during and after the vote, threatening prison terms of up to 10 years. The socialist president is gambling his four-year rule on the 545-member assembly, which will be empowered to dissolve the opposition-controlled congress and rewrite the constitution. But the unrest fueled fears that his insistence on convening the assembly — despite months of demonstrations and fierce international criticism — would only plunge the country deeper into chaos. Prosecutors said 10 people were killed in violence around the vote, bringing the death toll in four months of protests to some 120 people. Those killed included a candidate for the new assembly, a regional opposition leader, two teenage protesters and a soldier in the western state of Tachira, which saw some of the worst violence. In eastern Caracas, seven police were wounded when an improvised explosive targeted their motorcycle convoy.


National guard troops used armored vehicles, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters blocking roads in the west of the capital. Soldiers also violently moved against protesters in the second city of Maracaibo, in the west, and Puerto Ordaz in the east. The opposition had called for a boycott and mass demonstrations against the election, which it condemned as a bid to install a dictatorship. “This constituent assembly is being born in a bloodbath. It is born illegitimate,” said Nicmer Evans, a prominent socialist turned Maduro critic, alleging widespread irregularities. Maduro kicked off voting by casting his ballot in a west Caracas polling station. “I’m the first voter in the country. I ask God for his blessings so the people can freely exercise their democratic right to vote,” he said. He was accompanied by his wife, Cilia Flores, a candidate for the new assembly. He got a technological snub when he scanned his ID card at the polling station and the screen spit out the words, “This person does not exist or the ID was canceled”. Maduro, whose term is meant to end in 2019, describes the election as the most important in Venezuelan history. “I have come to vote to tell the gringos and the opposition that we want peace, not war, and that we support Maduro,” said voter Ana Contreras. Turnout will be key to determining the legitimacy of the election. But that will be difficult to ascertain, as most voters will be able to vote twice: once by region and once by social or industrial sector. According to polling firm Datanalisis, more than 70 percent of Venezuelans oppose the idea of the new assembly – and 80 percent reject Maduro’s leadership.


“The people are not going to give up the streets until this awful government goes,” protester Carlos Zambrano, 54, told AFP in western Caracas. Venezuelans also protested in Miami, Madrid and various Latin American cities. The number of Venezuelans living abroad has soared as the once-booming oil producer has descended into a devastating economic crisis marked by shortages, runaway inflation, riots and looting. Fear of the violence worsening has rippled across the region, and beyond. The US, the EU, Canada and Latin American powers including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have condemned the election. “Maduro’s sham election is another step toward dictatorship,” tweeted US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Britain’s junior foreign minister Alan Duncan also described the vote as a “sham,” as did many experts. “The vote means the end of any trace of democratic rule. Maduro’s blatant power grab removes any ambiguity about whether Venezuela is a democracy,” said Michael Shifter, head of the Inter-American Dialogue research center. Several foreign airlines, including Air France, Delta, Avianca and Iberia have suspended flights to Venezuela over security concerns. The US has ordered the families of its diplomats to leave after imposing sanctions on 13 current and former Venezuelan officials. It threatened further sanctions against Caracas. “We will continue to take strong and swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism in Venezuela, including those who participate in the National Constituent Assembly as a result of today’s flawed election,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.



Two dead, four wounded in German nightclub shooting

Reuters photo shows a cop outside the nightclub



KONSTANZ: A gunman opened fire at a packed nightclub in southern Germany on Sunday, killing one and wounding four before being shot by police, authorities said, in an attack likely motivated by a personal feud. The 34-year-old man, identified as an Iraqi national, “was critically injured in a shootout with police officers as he left the disco, and later succumbed to his wounds in hospital,” police said in a statement. “Investigations are ongoing into the background of the act, which was likely linked to a dispute in the attacker’s personal life. There are no indications of a terror act,” police added. The foreign gunman was not an asylum seeker and has been living in the Constance region, which borders Switzerland, for 15 years. Officers began receiving emergency calls from terrified clubbers at around 4:30am (local time) as the man began shooting in the nightclub heaving with “several hundred” people, said police. One person was killed on the spot and three others seriously wounded in the club called “Grey”, located in an industrial zone of the city, which draws Swiss revellers during the weekends. Shortly after the gunman left the building, he was shot by police. One officer was also injured in the exchange of fire. Frightened revellers had either fled the building or found a place to hide, police said, adding that the danger was now over. Helicopters were circling overhead and special forces were also deployed to secure the site. A witness told national news agency DPA that the attacker was shooting randomly at clubbers around him. “The club was jam-packed,” added the unnamed man, who said he had seen the attacker and fled quickly with his friends.


Another unnamed clubber was quoted by Suedkurier daily that he was in the washroom when someone came in and closed the toilet door saying there was shooting. “I didn’t believe it and went out. But I heard shots and quickly ran back to the toilet and closed the door with another person. With us was a bouncer who was shot and he was bandaging the wound with a belt,” said the witness. A bartender then opened the emergency exit door, allowing revellers to flee, he said, adding that he saw another person with a wound in the leg lying on the grass by the parking lot. “I just shouted at everyone to run and when we were in the parking lot, we heard shots again,” he said. Police was unable to confirm the type of weapon used, but Bezikofer said it was “not just a pistol, the talk is of a long weapon or an automatic pistol”. The shooting came just two days after Germany was shaken by a knife attack in the northern port city of Hamburg. A 26-year-old Palestinian had killed one and injured six in an assault at a supermarket. He was a known Islamist with psychological problems, and investigators say his motives remain unclear. Germany has been on high alert about the threat of a jihadist attack, especially since last December’s truck rampage through a Berlin Christmas market that claimed 12 lives. But it has also been hit by other assaults unrelated to the jihadist threat. Among the deadliest in recent years is a Munich shopping mall rampage last June by 18-year-old German-Iranian man which left 10 people dead including the gunman himself.

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