The Maharashtra government has tied up with a cyber security company to set up a statewide helpline that will guide people with queries on cyber crimes. The announcement came in the wake of the ‘WannaCry’ global ransomware attack that was initially feared to have partially affected networks in Maharashtra too. The helpline (02536631777) will be active for two days.
Special Inspector General of Police (Cyber) Brijesh Singh said in a statement Monday the helpline number with security experts had been provided for May 16 and 17. “All calls landing will be handled by malware specialists who will guide people in prevention and remedy,” he said. A police officer said though the helpline was introduced as a quick-fix for the concerns mounting over the malware attack that hit computers across the world on May 12, it might be continued if needed in future.
“We have tied up with an Indian cyber security company to set up a call centre meant for cyber crime victims,” said a senior official. He explained that they would soon set up a call centre in the state. There will be professionals trained in cyber security who will answer calls and guide the victims to take proper steps.
“Normally, people are not aware about ransomware attacks or what they can do to insulate themselves from such attacks. We are hoping we will be able to bridge this gap through this helpline. In this day and age, cyber attacks have the ability to shut down entire systems. Hence, there was a need for creating such a helpline,” added the officer. Meanwhile, V K Gautam, Principal Secretary (Information Technology), told The Indian Express that “zero incidents” on Mantralaya’s network had been reported following the virus scare of ‘WannaCry’. “Standalone machines with no security hygiene may have been impacted. Maharashtra Police has not reported any case to us,” he said.
In May 2016, at least 150 computers at Mantralaya, the state government headquarters, were attacked by ‘Locky’ ransomware. Following the incident, according to Gautam, Mantralaya has remained prepared. “Following Locky, three main processes are in place to avoid any such incidents. One, all inward-outward traffic is being monitored by our data centre. Second, the exchange server maha.gov.in is being filtered thoroughly for anything that is infectious that will be quarantined immediately. And lastly, scanning all incoming emails to Mantralaya,” he said.
“In the last 48 hours and in the next 72 hours, all devices using the local area network of Mantralaya are being scrutinised. All the 5,300 computers here in Mantralaya have updated anti-virus patches,” Gautam added. The state IT department said a special advisory was issued on May 13. A national web-telecast was held by CERT-IN at 11 am. “We sent all Maharashtra employees a link, which was to be accessed at 11 am and the hour long session educated officials on the Dos and Don’ts.”
A ransomware is a type of malicious software that prevents users from accessing the data on their computers by encrypting the data on the computer. Cyber criminals then ask for a ransom to be paid in bitcoins if the victim wants access to the data. Normally, a ransomware is spread by sending e-mails that have links attached to it. Once a person clicks on the link, it encrypts the data that is under the control of the accused.
WannaCry ransomware or WannaCrypt had hit at least 45,000 computers spread over 74 countries demanding a $300 ransom in Bitcoins to restore access to these devices and the information inside. Among those impacted was the UK’s National Health Service, stalling surgeries as patient information and documents became inaccessible.
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