Aarogya Setu-related phishing attacks on rise, says India's cyber agency

CERT-In is the national technology arm to combat cyberattacks and guarding of the Indian cyberspace.
Phishing attacks in the name of Aarogya Setu, the government's coronavirus tracking phone app, are witnessing a "high rise" as online scamsters are taking advantage of the increased inquisitiveness of internet users during the Covid-19 pandemic, CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) said on Saturday.

It said attackers are also impersonating tools linked to the World Health Organisation and popular video-conferencing platforms like Zoom to steal sensitive data.

"Aarogya Setu app-focused phishing has seen a high rise. Scammers impersonate as the HR department, CEO, or any other known person and target users by spreading messages like 'your neighbour is affected', 'see who all are affected', 'someone who came in contact with you tested positive', 'recommendations to self-isolate', 'guidelines to use Aarogya Setu' among others," the CERT-In said in the latest advisory accessed by PTI.

The Aarogya Setu application uses BlueTooth and GPS to alert users who may have encountered people who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

Phishing denotes to the cyber term of luring and cheating an internet user through a fake SMS or email and thereby breaching their privacy to steal sensitive information.

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"In recent trends, threat actors are taking advantage of the pandemic situation to trick the users to give up their sensitive information by taking advantage of the interest associated with recent novel coronavirus activities, news, and information," the advisory said.

CERT-In is the national technology arm to combat cyberattacks and guarding of the Indian cyberspace.

It said cyber attackers (threat actors) impersonate popular video platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Aarogya Setu app and WHO to send phishing messages through SMS (smishing), WhatsApp (whishing) or phishing emails to steal identities and engage in other nefarious activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The cyber attackers, it said, are using fake domains to impersonate popular apps to first lure the victims and then send them links such as "relief package", "safety tips during corona", "corona testing kit", "corona vaccine", "payment and donation during corona". It said the name of the WHO was also being impersonated.

"Cybercriminals are sending phishing emails impersonating WHO and e-mails appear to be originating from the domain of WHO. Such e-mails may contain malicious file and URLs (universal resource locators)," it said.

The cyber agency suggested come counter-measures to check this online menace:

Beware about the domain, spelling errors in emails, websites, and un-familiar email senders; check the integrity of URLs before providing login credentials or clicking a link and do not submit personal information to unknown and unfamiliar websites.

It said users should exercise caution and avoid clicking dubious URLs providing special offers like winning prize, rewards, cashback offers and they practice safe browsing tools, filtering tools their anti-virus and use a proper firewall.

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