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Post at: Sep 06 2021


Recent Context

  • Recently on July, 18 2021 “The Project Pegasus” has revealed that the Israel’ made NSO company made Pegasusspyware which targeted journalists, politicians, Judges and others in India has now evolved from its earlier methods of infecting phones by spear-phishing to ‘zero-click’ attacks– a sophisticated method that provides access to the target smartphone in real time.

What Are Zero-Click Attacks?

  • A zero-click attack is a remote cyber-attack which does not require any interaction from the target to compromise it.
  • To put it simply, zero-click attacks can take place without the target clicking on a malicious website or an app.

How Do Zero-Click Attacks Work?

  • Typically, cyber-attacks infect a target’s mobile device through some form of social engineering trick i.e., sending a malicious link to the target, which when clicked can make the mobile device vulnerable.
  • But such attempts can raise the victim’s suspicions and potentially provide a way to identify the perpetrator.
  • Therefore, Pegasus spyware has been specially designed to bypass the need of any social engineering tactics. These attacks give threat actors the ability to take over a smartphone in real time without any interaction with the target.

Zero-Click Attack vs Spear Phishing Attack

  • Zero-click attacks occur only when an attacker is able to take over a device remotely after successfully exploiting vulnerabilities in the software and hardware of the phone.
  • To make this kind of attack successful, an attacker needs to exploit flaws in a device, whereas spear phishing is a social engineering attack where a hacker sends a fraudulent message which is designed to trick a victim into revealing confidential information or to infect their device with a malicious software.

Can Zero-Click Attacks be Prevented?

  • Zero-click attacks are hard to detect given their nature and hence even harder to prevent. Detection becomes even harder in encrypted environments where there is no visibility on the data packets being sent or received.
  • One of the things users can do is to ensure all operating systems and software are up to date so that they would have the patches for at least vulnerabilities that have been spotted.

Rising Trends of Cyber Crime in India

  • In July, 2021 the IT Minister informed the Lok Sabha that the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) has issued alerts to over 700 organisations to enable active cyber-threat prevention. Also,Over 6.07 lakh cyber security incidents were observed in the country during the first half of 2021.
  • In India, Air India reported that hackers had compromised their servers and accessed the personal data of 4.5 million fliers.
  • In March 2021, there was an attack on Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, Smart City project in Pune district, which is managed by Tech Mahindra.
  • The government has formulated a draft National Cyber Security Strategy 2021 (NCSS2021), which holistically looks at addressing the issues of security of national cyberspace.

National Cyber Security Strategy 2020

  • Aim: To improve cyber awareness and cybersecurity through more stringent audits. Empanelled cyber auditors will look more carefully at the security features of organisations than are legally necessary now.
  • The strategy does call for an index of cyber preparedness, and attendant monitoring of performance.
  • A separate budget for cybersecurity is suggested in the draft.


Indian Government Steps to Tackle Cyber Crimes

  • The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) operates as the national agency for tackling the country’s cybersecurity. It has helped in lowering the rate of cyber-attacks on government networks.
  • Cyber Surakshit Bharat: Aiming at strengthening the cybersecurity ecosystem in India — in line with the government’s vision for a ‘Digital India’, The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has launched Cyber Surakshit Bharat initiative.
  • Malware Protection: The central government has also launched Cyber Swachhta Kendra, Kendra' (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre)which is a cleaning bot used for malware analysis and detecting malicious programs.
  • NCCC: The government has set up the National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) to generate necessary situational awareness of existing and potential cyber security threats. Phase-I of NCCC is operational.
  • Security Monitoring Centre (SMC): It is in place at the National Informatics Centre (NIC) for detecting and responding to security incidents related to NIC infrastructure and data centres.
  • A 24X7 Cyber Security Incident Response mechanism is in place at CERT-In.
  • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been designated as the nodal point in the fight against cybercrime.
  • The analytics centre at NCIIPC provides near real time threat intelligence and situation awareness based on which regular alerts and advisories are sent to Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) or Protected System Entities (PSE) to avert cyber-attacks.
  • The government has launched National Cyber Crime (NCC) reporting portal — — to enable public to report incidents pertaining to all types of cybercrimes with a special focus on crimes against women and children.

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