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Punjab’s Covid survey app for ASHAs suffers outage, health dept suspects Chinese ransomware attack, then finds ‘tech glitch’

While earlier in the day, the Department communicated to district level community mobilisers that the app had been 'attacked by Chinese ransomware', it clarified in the evening that it was only a ‘technical glitch’

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana | Published: July 5, 2020 1:24:17 am
punjab asha workers, asha workers coronavirus punjab, covid app asha workers punjab, punjab news ASHA workers, meanwhile, confirmed that on Saturday, the mobile application wasn’t working for hours, with multiple attempts to login not succeeding. (Representational)

The Punjab Health Department’s official mobile application — ‘House to House Surveillance’ (Ghar Ghar Jaake Nigrani) — which was launched for ASHA workers to do door-to-door Covid survey suffered an outage on Saturday.

While earlier in the day, the Department communicated to district level community mobilisers that the app had been ‘attacked by Chinese ransomware’, it clarified in the evening that it was only a ‘technical glitch’

ASHA workers, meanwhile, confirmed that on Saturday, the mobile application wasn’t working for hours, with multiple attempts to login not succeeding.

In the official state-level Health Department WhatsApp group — ‘State H2H Group’, through which district-level community mobilisers are given instructions which finally reach ASHA workers, a message from state officials said, “Dear All… Today house-to-house survey application was attacked by Chinese ransomware and due to this you are facing issues. Kindly instruct your ASHA following things: 1. Update the house-to-house app from Google Play Store if not downloaded yet 2. Change your password immediately (very urgent otherwise I have to change all passwords from here) 3. Remove Chinese apps from phone which are banned by GoI 4. Update the mobile software if update is available 5. Most important don’t share username and password with anyone.”

The message added, “Data is very important, so ensure ASHAs should update and follow above mentioned steps immediately..”

But in the evening the department confirmed that the “attack from Chinese ransomware” was an “apprehension” after “the app had stopped working”.

Clarifying that this was the reason that the messages were “initially sent in panic”, Satinder Pal Singh, manager, monitoring and evaluation, nodal officer, IT cell, Punjab Health Department, said: “Actually later we found that it was a technical glitch due to which the app had stopped working. It was down today from 3.30 pm to 7 pm, and we were doing some maintenance works. Initially, we apprehended that it was an attack from the Chinese ransomware, but it wasn’t so. There was no data loss and everything is good now. To ensure that no data is lost, we instructed ASHAs to change passwords immediately and these messages were sent in panic. Due to security reasons, we took all precautionary steps.”

Later in the evening, another message was received WhatsApp group ‘State H2H Group’, saying: “No Chinese ransomware reported that is confirmed by the server team… technical glitch is reported and due to this application was down. Earlier message please be ignored, but for security reason please change the password.”

Isha Kalia, Special Secretary, Health and testing in-charge for Covid-19 in Punjab, did not respond to the calls and messages.

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