Cyber Crimes during Corona Virus Crisis

Fri, Apr 10, 2020 8:08 AM on Economy, Exclusive, Recommended,
Cyber Crim...

Its been more than 2 weeks of lockdown now here. And, the corona virus pandemic is rapidly reshaping the way we live their daily lives. Both social distancing and calls to stay at home to avoid unnecessary interactions mean rethinking how we approach daily tasks, including managing our money.

The World Health Organization has advised avoiding watching, reading or listening to news that could result in feeling distressed, seeking information on how to prepare and protect friends and family and ensuring that information is only accessed at specific times.

Cyber Crimes in the form of Scams are in rise worldwide especially from the beginning of March this year.These scams are found to be designed to target us and our money during this already confusing time, including everything from offers for vaccines, to fake charities, to traditional email scams.

Cyber criminals and sophisticated hacking groups tied to foreign adversaries are increasingly tying to take advantage of the corona virus pandemic to target individuals and organizations.Cyber security experts have noted a sharp increase in concerns over advertising frauds, digital security and company-related sensitive data, among others, during the ongoing lockdown period.

Amid the current uncertainty, banks are encouraging customers to take advantage of online, mobile and phone banking services in lieu of branch visits. Along with the higher reliance on mobile banking comes more risk of cyber crimes.

We should not forget the SWIFT Server hack in October 2017. Hope the banks are very vigilant again during this Lockdown times.

We are seeing various pop up advertisements while visiting bank websites nowadays regarding tips like not sharing OTP, passwords. Etc.Thus, on the customer’s part, we also have equally demanding responsibility for safety of our own funds and sincerely adhere to the Security tips popped up by the banking websites.

Following are the summaries of these recommendations:

1. Skip Using Public Wi-Fi to Access Online or Mobile Banking:

Working from home and doing schoolwork online are becoming part of the new normal for many individuals and families amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The Internet Service providers or our Local Community may have arranged Free Public WIFI service. But we should not forget that Public Wi-Fi can easily be hacked in multiple ways, including man-in-the-middle attacks, in which a scammer is able to essentially pull our banking information out of virtual thin air as it’s being transmitted from our device to the website or app we are sending it to.

The safest bet is to avoid public Wi-Fi altogether and rely on secure internet access at home. But if corona virus has any of us leaning on public Wi-Fi for any reason, we must check to make sure the connection is secured before logging in to any online or mobile banking. 

We can take security a step further by using a Virtual Private Network or VPN to log in to mobile and online banking over public Wi-Fi. A VPN allows us to use public Wi-Fi to get online but it creates an encrypted secure pathway for doing so. 

2. Update Online and Mobile Banking Passwords:

This is a simple way to protect our online banking details at any time, but it may be particularly important during the current corona virus situation. When people are distracted by the news, as many are now, that’s a prime opportunity for hackers and identity thieves to attempt to access our accounts by guessing at passwords. 

If we haven’t updated our passwords recently, add that to our to-do list. And remember to make passwords as unique as possible. These tips can help:

  • Create passwords using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Don’t assume changing one letter or digit of an old password is enough. 
  • Consider using a phrase or acronym instead of a word. 

Going forward,we need to establish a habit to update our passwords every three to four months for online and mobile banking.

3. Monitor Activity With Banking Alerts:

Banking alerts can be a helpful tool in managing online security, especially if we don’t have time to log in to our bank account every day or multiple times a day. 

With banking alerts, we can get an email or text notification when there’s new activity on our accounts. The types of alerts we can set up include: 

  • Transaction alerts for debits and credits above an amount we specify
  • Failed login attempts
  • Password or personal information updates

Having alerts in place means that we don’t have to constantly worry about whether our online banking details are in danger. If we get an email notifying of a new debit transaction, for example, we can log in to verify that it’s something we authorized. 

This can be a huge help in stopping identity thieves and hackers from draining our accounts without our knowing it. If we see an unauthorized transaction, we can contact our bank immediately to notify them of suspected fraudulent activity. 

If we want added reassurance,we can still check in with our bank accounts daily through online or mobile banking. As we’re scanning our account activity,we should take note of anything that might look suspicious, such as a small purchase we don’t remember making.

It’s not uncommon for hackers to send through a small transaction or two to see if they’re noticed, before making a bigger attack on our account.

4. Be Cautious About Granting Access to our Account:

Not just banking apps, we should also check our various E-commerce apps which we might be using for paying bills, sending or receiving funds. The use of these apps have also increased a lot during lockdown as transferring funds have been made free for the time period. We need to keep check on the passwords, access granted, statement for recent transactions made and verify them on regular intervals.

5. ATM Transactions:

ATM withdrawals have been made free for temporary period irrespective of our bank. I.e. no charge for withdrawals made from any bank’s ATM machine. Basic precautions here include hiding PIN,looking for ATMs that are within banking perimeters,well lighted and/or on busy street, looking for abnormalities before using ATM like if any ATM Skimming Machines are attached to it.

Finally, to conclude, I, as a writer, accept the fact that the article contains nothing new and the same old fashioned boring tips that we know already.

However, the objective is just that we keep in mind that the world around us is witnessing abnormal spike/rise in cyber crimes in current scenario and consequent financial loss occurred due to capitalisation of opportunity provided to the hackers by our even the simplest /minor carelessness- be it with regard to sharing OTPs, Passwords, CVV, Card numbers.etc.

Thus, its aimed that we take a while and atleast review our digital data and records during this spare time. And, not just limited to banking but we must also include review of our Shares Portfolio related Services too (as the shares are next best asset after the funds in our bank ) like review of depository login, transactions history, DIS details, linked bank accounts for cash dividends, renewals,account statement,shares debit credit confirmations.etc.

Stay Safe- not just physically and mentally but also digitally and financially!!!!


- CA Ayush Khetan