Maharashtra: Anil Deshmukh warns of cyber attack in COVID-19 vaccination; urges people not to share key details

Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon people not to believe rumours, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Saturday sounded an alert about possible cyber-attacks during the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Hours after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the nation-wide COVID-19 vaccination campaign and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in the state, Deshmukh urged the citizens not to fall prey to tactics by cyber criminals.

“Cyber criminals are now trying to dig their claws into people in the name of COVID-19 vaccine. They are tricking people to share OTP, Aadhaar number, PIN code and personal information in the name of vaccine registration,” warned Deshmukh.

“I urge people to report such frauds immediately to the nearest police stations and Maharashtra Cyber Department so that police can take strict action against them,” he noted.

Deshmukh has already directed the Maharashtra Cyber Department to step up vigil and keep on issuing advisories to the citizens.

A senior officer of the Maharashtra Cyber Department referred to the recent incident in which the European Medicines Agency (EMA) reported that Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine data was stolen during a cyber attack. The attack occurred on December 19, 2020. The agency confirmed that threat actors broke into its server and stole documents related to the Covid 19 vaccine.

“Cyber attacks are related to ransomware to data breaches, fake vaccines and unemployment fraud. Cyber criminals will have a free run to spread rumours and exploit the people,’’ said the officer. He referred to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report which had shown a fivefold increase in cyber-attacks in 2020. The WHO had subsequently directed its staff and the public at large.

According to another officer, the department has urged the citizens not to believe on any digital platforms but only follow vaccine.icmr.org.in or other launched by the government.

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