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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hijack and ransom ..... not physical - hackers taking control and demanding ransom

Amidst the crowning glory of Narendra Modi, the local papers had space for some little things too…. one was about a reported  kidnap incident ….. there were reports that a fuel station owner who was reportedly kidnapped by a gang on Sunday morning, returned home during the wee hours of Monday.  He is the son of He is the son of the Edapadi Panchayat Union Chairman  a senior AIADMK functionary. According to the complaint lodged with the Poolampatti Police, Shankar, on Sunday, had informed his father that he was on his way to Jalakandapuram to collect a courier. Madesh received a call on his mobile phone at 1.30 p.m. and the caller claimed that Shankar was with him. The caller demanded a ransom of Rs. 2 crore to let Shankar free. Based on the complaint, a case was registered under Section 364 (A) (kidnapping for ransom) of the Indian Penal Code and eight special teams were formed to rescue Shankar,  who returned home at 4.20 a.m. on Monday.  Singam released in 2010 ran packed houses.   The action masala film gave a fillip to Surya’s career – in the film, the villain Mayilvahanan is involved in many anti-social activities, occupying lands and kidnapping children for ransom is another. The sequel, Singam II, released in July 2013, was also a high commercial success.

As you travel in public transport, you see people hooked to their phone….. in India,  it’s its love for large screen devices suited for multimedia consumption. India loves to watch movies, TV shows, and music videos on the go and larger the screen, the better the experience ~ those of us, who are not so great fans of cinema, end up seeing cricket clips and videos.  Mobile equipments are big market – it is to be seen to be believed the way people buy and exchange their gadgets ….it is not only the uber-rich India, but even those with meagre earnings …. People with low income too buy expensive phones.  Every phone must have some good features – the bigger screen, faster connectivity, good amplifier, micro SD card with gargantuan storage space……

For the elite, there is iphone, the smartphone from the stable of Apple. It runs Apple's iOS mobile operating system. The first generation iPhone was released in June 2007; the most recent iPhones, the seventh-generation iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S, were introduced in  Sept 2013. The user interface is built around the device's multi-touch screen, including a virtual keyboard. The iPhone has Wi-Fiand can connect to many different cellular networks. An iPhone can shoot video, take photos, play music, send and receive email, browse the web, send texts, GPS navigation, tell jokes, record notes, do mathematical calculations, and receive visual voicemail. Other functions — video games, reference works, social networking, etc. — can be enabled by downloading application programs (‘apps’).  ~ and there was the added ‘Security’ …. Users who set up their new iPhone 5s will be prompted to add a fingerprint for the Touch ID sensor integrated into the home button. Four more separate fingerprints, for a total of five, can be added later in the iOS 7 Settings application, where other changes can be made to enhance security. At  around Rs.37,500 officially, the 8GB iPhone 5c is close to the price of phones such as the Galaxy Note 3 and the LG G2, both of which trump the iPhone 5c for screen real estate and storage size.

In this modern world, here is something on hijacking – not physical but on a virtual platform – anyway resulting in loss of money for the victim.  (news credit : smh.com.au) ~ Australian Apple devices, including the iPhone, are being hijacked by a hacker and held ransom.  The report states that owners of Apple devices across Australia are having them digitally held for ransom by hackers demanding payment before they will relinquish control. iPads, iPhone and Mac owners in Queensland, NSW, Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria have reported having their devices held hostage. One iPhone user, a Fairfax Media employee in Sydney, said she was awoken at 4am on Tuesday to a loud "lost phone" message that said "Oleg Pliss" had hacked their phone. She was instructed to send $50 to a PayPal account to have it unlocked. It is not physical theft of the phone, but hackers gaining access to the phone, and demanding ransom for having it unlocked …. the poor victim, who despite having the phone on hand, could not use it without paying the hacker to have the access to the same. 


It is likely hackers are using the unusual name as a front to get money from people. A real Oleg Pliss is a software engineer at tech company Oracle. A similar name is listed on LInkedIn as a banking professional in Ukraine, while there are others in Russia.  Users who have a passcode on their device appear to be able to unlock it after the hacker has sent them the message demanding payment, but those who had not set a passcode are unable to.

Away from all the melee, there has been ‘Kidnap and ransom insurance’  designed to protect individuals and corporations operating in high-risk areas around the world. K&R insurance policies typically cover the perils of kidnap, extortion, wrongful detention, and hijacking. K&R policies are indemnity policies - they reimburse a loss incurred by the insured. The policies do not pay ransoms on the behalf of the insured. Typically, the insured must first pay the ransom, thus incurring the loss, and then seek reimbursement under the policy ~ and  at this juncture these ‘virtual hijack’ of equipments and ransom for their release would be outside the purview of coverage.


With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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