In a suspected case of cyber security threat, several officers of the Indian Army have received fake messages through phone messaging applications informing them that the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Officers), PCDA(O), has developed an app and the officers could access their accounts through the link in the messages.
The PCDA(O) has now issued an advisory to the officers not to open these links and clarified that no such app has been developed by the office.
The office of PCDA(O), which is located in Pune, caters to over 46,000 serving Army officers, right from the Chief of Army Staff to officers of the rank of a lieutenant, which is the first rank for the commissioned officers. According to its own website, the office looks after the pre-audit and payment of pay and allowances and all claims of officers of Indian Army.
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Incidentally, the website of PCDA (O) was hacked in April last year.
Defence sources said that since over a month till 15 days ago, several Army officers, including seniors, received messages through the phone messaging services like WhatsApp and also through messaging services of social networking sites and mails that the PCDA (O) had developed an app through which they could access information about their pay and allowance.
“When these links were checked, it came to light that the browser was redirecting the user to a suspicious link. This was a potential cyber security threat, which could have led to stealing of personal data of the officers, including their usernames and passwords for the PCDA (O) website,” said an officer on the condition of anonymity.
“Such intrusions can potentially be a threat to the data on the server of the website. The PCDA (O) has not just the information about salaries but also of the allowances. The information on these allowances can reveal where the officer is currently posted and what exactly is the profile, and even his personal details about home and loans,” the officer said.
The PCDA (O) website has now posted advisory messages which read, “PCDA(O) has not developed any APP or application for any service or communication. Hence, do not respond to any unauthorised e-mail communication and do not download any such application. PCDA(O) is not forwarding any link either to officer’s email IDs or to mobile phones. Hence, officers are advised not to respond to or click any such link even if it is received in the name of PCDA(O).”
Principal Control of Defence Accounts, Dr G D Pungle, said, “These advisory messages have been posted because we are very cautious about the security of the data. It is a continuous effort to take all the care so that information of our clients is safe.”
In April last year, the website of PCDA(O) had come under cyber attack by alleged hackers from Pakistan, who had posted obscene photos on the website. The website was shut down for a while before it was restored with advanced cyber security checks.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has, in the past, stated that cyber security was one of the key concerns for Indian defence forces.