THE OFFICE of Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (Officers), PCDA (O) in Pune, which looks after salaries of all serving commissioned Army officers across the country, has issued an advisory not to open suspicious mails asking to verify PAN numbers of the officers. The mails are suspected to be infected with malware attachments. The office had earlier issued an advisory regarding suspicious messages about a phone application developed by the office.
The office of PCDA(O) caters to over 46,000 serving Army officers, right from the Chief of Army Staff who is of the rank of a General to the officers of the rank of lieutenant. The office looks after the pre-audit and payment of pay and allowances, and all claims of officers of the Army, and thus, has sensitive data about the places of postings of officers and their service tenures.
A defence accounts officer from the PCDA(O) said, “There have been cases in the recent past where officers have received mails on their personal mail addresses from addresses resembling that of the PCDA(O). These emails asked the officers to verify their income tax Permanent Account Number. But when source of these mails was checked, it was clear that such mails were never sent from the office and were believed to be sent by Cyber criminals. It is suspected that those mails had attached malware in them, which could infect the system where the mails were opened. So the advisory has been issued about a week ago and has been displayed prominently on the website of the PCDA(O).”
The advisory reads, “Officers are requested not to open any file/email attachment received in the name of PCDA(O) Pune regarding verification of PAN. No Such message has been forwarded by PCDA(O), Pune.”
In March and April this year, in what was suspected to be a case of Cyber security threat, some officers of the Indian Army had received fake messages through phone messaging applications like WhatsApp informing them that the PCDA(O) had developed an app and the officers could access their accounts through the link in the messages. The PCDA(O) had then issued an advisory to the officers not to open these links.
An Army officer said, “The Army has its own Intranet which is used for official communication and data transfers. The computers on the Intranet are different and physical separation is maintained, which means they are never connected to each other.” he added. Incidentally, the website of PCDA (O) was hacked in April last year 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. In May, this year, the office launched a new website that is believed to have robust security arrangements.