In the present day booming digital revolution and pandemic threat work from home (Work From Home) has increased our dependence on artificial intelligence (AI). Hence, internet security and data privacy are a major concern for MNCs, government, academicians, researchers, etc. In spite of awareness and online workshops by cyber experts more engagement is needed to protect our online privacy that comprises personal information.
Recently Airtel witnessed the biggest data breach by cyber criminals. Millions of personal details including contact numbers, addresses, city, Aadhaar card number and gender details were leaked by online hackers. India Today in its news report verified that many numbers of the data dump belonged to Airtel customers.
The information has been revealed by Rajshekhar Rajaharia, an Internet security researcher. According to Rajaharia, the hackers even communicated with Airtel security teams and then tried to blackmail the company and extort $3500 in Bitcoins from it.
Rajaharia said, the hackers allegedly uploaded details of 2.5 million Airtel subscribers as a sample in January 2021 and tried to "extort money" from the company. "Everything was posted on the web... not on the dark web," he said. He further added that the sample data dump of 25 lakh Airtel subscribers belongs to one region that is Jammu and Kashmir.
However, it seems that the hackers failed and, in the frustration, they put up the data on sale on the web, by creating a website for it and showing a sample of the user details that they had.
Responding to the story, Airtel in a statement said, "Airtel takes great pride in deploying various measures to safeguard the privacy of its customers. In this specific case, we confirm that there is no data breach at our end. In fact, the claims made by this group reveal glaring inaccuracies and a large proportion of the data records do not even belong to Airtel. We have already apprised the relevant authorities of the matter."
Rajaharia said that the website where the user data was hosted was taken down earlier on Tuesday. It is not clear if the hackers took down the website. Apart from online activists and government, users need to be vigilant about their personal and professional data that could be vulnerable to hackers. In Asian countries like India where there is still a lot of unawareness, misinformation and disinformation related to social media, internet apps and data security. It is evident to clear the misconceptions and doubts about cyber security threats. There needs to be a constant effort to eliminate fake news that could influence online privacy as well.
According to a report by Economic Times, cyber attacks on individuals and businesses are expected to cost $6 trillion losses annually by 2021. The top cyber attacks include phishing and malware. Soon after commencing office, US President Joe Biden started hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defence officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies.
In another news report, the head of Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) apologised on Friday after a recent cyber attack led to a serious data breach at the central bank. Today, data breach is a global phenomenon and an equal threat to all developed, developing and underdeveloped countries. Online hacks relating to banking transactions are potential risks of cyber-attacks by terrorist outfits. Social Media Matters has been working on online safety, cyber crimes and fake news by conducting workshops and seminars regarding the same. SMM aims at inculcating cyber etiquettes among netizens of all age groups and keeping them well informed regarding internet safety tools and initiatives at the same time.