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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Phishing risk: Army officers warned of fake emails about salary hike

In the past, the office has issued advisories regarding fake calls seeking information from officers and also fake messages asking officers to verify the PAN numbers and account details.

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune |
Updated: August 20, 2019 10:09:21 am
pune news, phishing attack, indian army staff, fake e-mails, indian express In September 2016, the office had issued an advisory not to open spurious mails asking to verify PAN numbers of the officers, which were suspected to be infected with malware attachments. (Representational)

IN an advisory against phishing attacks, 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 warned officers against fraudulent emails about salary hike and seeking bank account-related information.

The office of PCDA(O) is a key defence accounts institution that caters to 47,000 serving officers of the Indian Army, right to the officers of the rank of lieutenant, which is the first rank for the commissioned officers, to the Chief of Army Staff, who is of the rank of a General. The pre-audit and payment of pay, allowances and all claims of these officers are done by the PCDA(O) office. In the past, the office has issued advisories regarding fake calls seeking information from officers and also fake messages asking officers to verify the PAN numbers and account details.

The latest advisory to the Army officers issued by the office reads, “The officers are requested not to click the URL or respond to e-mails purportedly received from PCDA(O) or CGDA (Controller General of Defence Accounts), but actually sent by malicious sources seeking their bank details or PAN number or containing subject messages like ‘Armed Forces Salary Increase for 2019 as per SC Orders’ etc. In the past also, malicious e-mails were being sent in the name of PCDA(O) with the message seeking update on information. The link forwarded with the message in fact diverts the user to a malicious page with fake domain name. These are phishing attempts. PCDA(O), Pune, never sends any hyper-link or message to the Officers for providing information.”

An Army officer said, “Other than the basic financial interest in targeting Army officers in the phishing attacks, cyber criminals might also be looking for information of particular officers like their posting details etc. The officers might also be lured into clicking the links that may attack the computer systems they are using. Every Defence unit issues specific set of DOs and DON’Ts for the cyber security but such advisories are issued by key institutions like PCDA(O) based on recent complaints or incidents. Any such suspicious email should be reported to appropriate authorities so other people can also be warned.”

The advisory reads, “The authentic e-mail addresses of PCDA(O) are as given in ‘Contact Us’ Navigation Bar on Home Page of our website.”  The Indian Express had reported about a similar warning being issued by the office regarding fake calls from fraudsters on the pretext of giving insurance benefits.

In September 2016, the office had issued an advisory not to open spurious mails asking to verify PAN numbers of the officers, which were suspected to be infected with malware attachments. Before that, in March and April 2016, 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.

Incidentally, the website of PCDA(O) was compromised in April 2015 by alleged hackers, who had posted obscene photos on it. The website was shut down for a while before it was restored with advanced cyber security checks. In May 2016, the office launched a new website, which is believed to have robust security arrangements.

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