BHOPAL: Facebook users have become soft targets for cyber criminals amid the COVID-19 lockdown, it has emerged.
Incidents of hacking or cloning of FB accounts by cyber fraudsters have grown alarmingly during the lockdown and subsequent unlock phases.
While the lockdown and surge in COVID-19 cases has confined people indoors and triggered an increase in their time spent over Facebook and other social media platforms, it has also led to increased activity by cyber fraudsters.
According to sources at the Madhya Pradesh Police's Cyber Cell HQ, around 40% of the cyber crime cases being reported at police stations in various districts as well as cyber cells of big cities, like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior, pertain to hacking or cloning of FB accounts.
"The hacked or cloned accounts are being used to request monetary help from FB friends of the original account holder in the name of having lost a job or even being admitted to a hospital ICU. The cyber fraudsters have even messaged pictures of the ICU from the cloned or hacked accounts to appeal for money from the FB friends of the original user," MP Police's Cyber Cell Indore Unit police superintendent Jitendra Singh told The New Indian Express.
The users whose FB accounts have been hacked or cloned also include senior cops, including the police superintendent of one of the districts neighbouring Indore, and IAS officers, besides several police inspectors and sub-inspectors.
MP Police's cyber cell sources in Bhopal too confirmed the trend. "Out of the ten cases of cyber crime being reported to us daily in Bhopal, three to four cases pertain to FB account hacking or cloning," said a senior cyber cell officer in Bhopal.
Observing that many FB users are seeking monetary help from friends over the social media platform due to loss of jobs or medical emergencies, the cyber fraudsters too are using the cloned or hacked accounts to make identical requests citing similar reasons and manage to dupe some users, say investigators.
In the case pertaining to the cloning of the FB account of the police chief of one of the districts neighbouring Indore, the fraudsters operating the IPS officer's cloned page managed to get Rs 10,000 from the cop's friend based in Dhar district of MP.
According to sources at the cyber cell in Bhopal, the fraudsters who are indulging in hacking and cloning of FB accounts are well identified and based in Mewat (Haryana) and Bharatpur (Rajasthan), besides some districts of Jharkhand and West Bengal.
The MP police's cyber cops are waiting for the COVID-19 threat to decline before joining cyber cops of the concerned states in making a swoop on the dens of the cyber fraudsters in those states.
The ongoing probe into these cases has revealed that FB users who have made their phone numbers or entries from their 'About' section as their password are more vulnerable to hacking of accounts, while users who haven't locked their profile pictures are more vulnerable to their accounts being cloned.