Late last year, Balaji Vijayaraghavan, a criminology student from Chennai, downloaded Snapit, a money-lending app. A few days later, he lost close to a lakh from his bank account.
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Balaji immediately froze his bank accounts and launched an investigation along with Save Them India Foundation, an NGO working in the cybersecurity front, into how the data breach occurred.
“When we began to probe the issue, I learnt that there were 59 malware in the digital lending app that I installed,” says Balaji “Although I did not log in on the app or give permission to access details of other apps such as gallery and contacts, my mobile was hacked and data was compromised,” Balaji, TN president of Save Them India Foundation, adds.
The scammer, in fact, had taken control of his device to send SMS without his knowledge or consent. The scammer unblocked Balaji’s bank account as it was able to read the OTP and siphon off funds.
Balaji noted that there were multiple transactions in just 27 days and his account was credited and debited with close to Rs 8 lakhs. The hackers used his bank account for money laundering activity. In the process of which, the hackers siphoned off close to a lakh that Balaji already had in his account.
“I think it was done to convert the dark web transactions via cryptocurrency, black money into white, and use it for local operational activities in India,” he says.
How does the black money gets converted into white money?
Cryptocurrency is a non-traceable form of transaction digitally circulated in the dark web. The most popular cryptocurrency is bitcoins and the transaction fee is negligible. The hackers use bitcoin to ensure the government does not suspect the activity. The entire process appears legitimate as a result of which the government cannot take notice as the transaction may appear like native transactions.
Balaji’s experience is just the tip of the iceberg. There has been a considerable spike in the number of cyber crimes happening in India during the lockdown in. Pune recorded 14,759 cyber crime cases, Delhi saw 29,847 complaints and Cyberabad witnessed 24,868 cases in 2020. In Hyderabad 1,200 cyber crime cases were registered till June 2020 and 1,755 FIRs were filed in Ghaziabad till August 2020. In light of which, Save Them India Foundation has filed a petition in the Supreme Court urging it to take measures to pass the Data Protection Bill, 2019.
Read more: Keeping your child safe in the age of the Internet
We spoke to Pravin Kalaiselvan, founder of Save Them India Foundation and Balaji Vijayaraghavan to understand the trend of rising cyber crimes in India and what we can do to stay safe. Excerpts from the interview:
What does the rise in cybercrimes in India indicate?
Pravin: We began to…