Monday, May 15, 2017

Hackers target Pune students; modus operandi exposed


PUNE: One might think that only celebrities and known personalities fall prey to online hacking. After all, the last couple of years have seen leaked photographs and sensitive emails making it to public platforms, courtesy hackers. However, closer home, college youngsters have suffered a similar fate.

In the last month, 15 girl students have lodged formal complaints with the Pune Police cyber-crime cell about their social media and email accounts being hacked. "It all started with a message from a friend's number asking me to vote for her modelling portfolio," says Asmita Deo , who was a hacking victim.

Unaware of her friend's account being hacked, the student clicked on the attached link to vote. "After I clicked on the link, the person asked me for my iCloud id and contact number and even convinced me to add the number to my inner circles so as to get more votes," she informs. Soon after, Ananya's account was hacked and she got logged out of her social media profiles as well. "My passwords were changed and so were the security questions. Even my phone got locked a while later," she says.

Falling prey to hackers is something that every net savvy youth fears, but this particular hacker targeted a group of city-based students who are also aspiring models. Some of them have even received threats from the hacker about leaking private pictures on fake profiles.

Similarly, the hacker, who is yet to be identified, sent the same message to Asmita's friends asking them to vote. This resulted in a chain of hacks in a closely knit friend circle. "My account got hacked and it is now being used to gain access to multiple accounts using my identity. I received the message from the hacker saying he doesn't want money and that he is doing this just because he wants to control peoples' lives. He is doing this just for fun," says Sarita Adagale.

This has been the modus operandi in every case. Another victim, Nalini Sawant, who even got a call from the hacker, says, "It was when I stopped replying to his messages that I got a call from an unknown number. He claimed to be a Burhan from Pakistan. He messaged and harassed me by creating a fake Facebook profile and also uploaded some of my private pictures. He threatened to make more fake profiles using my name and told me that he would make my life hell," she says.

While most of the hacked accounts have been recovered, the police are having a tough time cracking all the cases. Radhika Phadke, senior PI, cyber-crime cell, informs, "We have been able to recover most of the hacked accounts, but haven't been able to trace the hacker yet, as the IP (internet protocol) address displays Islamabad, Pakistan. Getting permissions to enquire or even make an arrest is not possible."

In such cases, it is advisable to avoid talking to strangers and accepting their requests on social media, feels Phadke. "People should be alert and avoid clicking on any link that anyone provides them with, no matter how trusted the source might be," she says.


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