August 1, 2016 

In Mantralaya’s case, the cyber criminals had used a frequently used malware ‘Locky’ to strike the computer systems.

01 08 16

Cases of ransomware crimes — cyber criminals asking corporate firms to pay a ransom or see their computer files destroyed — are soaring in Maharashtra, the cyberpolice and independent experts have claimed.

While the term ‘ransomware crimes’ shot into prominence this May, after 150-odd computers at the Mantralaya were compromised, police officers and many experts claim that such crimes have been on the rise over the past year. They further said that a majority of the attacks, mostly involving top corporates, go unreported.

In Mantralaya’s case, the cyber criminals had used a frequently used malware ‘Locky’ to strike the computer systems.

“The way the crime is carried out on most occasions is that an employee will get an email from an unidentified address. The email has a link attached to it. Once he clicks on the link, it installs a virus that takes control of the entire data of the organisation. Soon after, the systems black out and a message asking for money to be paid in bitcoins flashes across screens. The criminals threaten the firm that they will wipe out the entire data if the money is not given,” said a senior officer from the cyber police station in the Bandra Kurla Complex, where a similar case was recently lodged.

Cyber expert Vicky Shah said firms use several options to get out of the situation. “Some organisations have their engineers decrypt the data and get by without paying anything. Others have a back up of the data and get the entire system formatted, “ Shah said.

However, a senior IPS officer confirmed, there have been cases where top corporate houses have ended up paying the ransom.

“Sometimes, when it comes to sensitive data, there have been cases where money has been paid,” this officer said, requesting anonymity.

“This, however, does not come on record as the company risks losing its reputation if it comes to light that it cannot keep its data safe.

This, coupled with the fact that it is difficult to track down the accused in such cases, discourages companies to come forward and register a complaint,” he said.

Inspector General ( Cyber Crime) Brijesh Singh said, “Ransomware crimes are on the rise. But most victims choose not to report, and hence the numbers do not show up.”

A study by the software security firm Kapersky released last month mentioned that India was one of the top five countries in the world impacted by ransomware. Within India, Maharashtra is the third most affected state, after Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the study says.

Shah said that the easiest way to ensure one does not fall victim to ransomware is not clicking on links by unknown senders. “Using authentic software also plays an important role in the safety of data stored on the network.” Shah added.

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