Introduction: In the age of advanced technology, Cyber threats continue to grow, and so are the cyber hubs. A new name has been added to the cyber hub, Purnia, a city in India, is now evolving as a new and alarming menace-biometric cloning and financial crimes. This emerging cyber threat involves replicating an individual’s biometric data, such as fingerprint or facial recognition, to gain unauthorised access to their bank accounts and carry out fraudulent activities. In this blog, we will have a look at the methods employed, the impact on individuals and institutions, and the necessary steps to mitigate the risk.
The Backdrop: Purnia, a bustling city in the state of Bihar, India, is known for its rich cultural heritage, However, underneath its bright appearance comes a hidden danger—a rising cyber threat with the potential to devastate its citizens’ financial security. Purnia has seen the growth of a dangerous trend in recent years, such as biometric cloning for financial crimes, after several FIRs were registered with Kasba and Amaur police stations. The Police came into action and started an investigation.
Modus Operandi unveiled: The modus Operandi of cyber criminals includes hacking into databases, intercepting data during transactions, or even physically obtaining fingerprints of facial images from objects or surfaces. Let’s understand how they gathered all this data and why Bihar was not targeted.
These criminals are way smart they operate in the three states. They targeted and have open access to obtain registry and agreement paperwork from official websites, albeit it is not available online in Bihar. As a result, the scam was conducted in other states rather than Bihar; further, the fraudsters were involved in downloading the fingerprints, biometrics, and Aadhaar numbers of buyers and sellers from the property registration documents of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, and Telangana.
After Cloning fingerprints, the fraudster withdrew money after linking with Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) from various bank accounts. The fraudsters stamped the fingerprint on rubber trace paper and utilised a polymer stamp machine and heating at a specific temperature with a chemical to make duplicate fingerprints used in unlawful financial transactions from several consumers’ bank accounts.
Investigation Insight: After the breakthrough, the police teams recovered a large number of smartphones, ATM cards, rubber stamps of fingerprints, Aadhar numbers, scanners, Stamp machines, laptops, and chemicals, and along with this, 17 people were arrested.
During the investigation, it was found that the cybercriminals employ Sophisticated money laundering techniques to obscure the illicit origins of the stolen funds. The fraudsters transfer money into various /multiple accounts or use cryptocurrency. Using these tactics makes it more challenging for authorities to trace back money and get it back.
Impact of biometric Cloning scam: the Biometric scam has far-reaching implications both for society, Individuals, and institutions. These kinds of scams cause financial losses and create emotional breakdowns, including anger, anxiety, and a sense of violation. This also broke the trust in a digital system.
It also seriously impacts institutions. Biometric cloning frauds may potentially cause severe reputational harm to financial institutions and organisations. When clients fall prey to such frauds, it erodes faith in the institution’s security procedures, potentially leading to customer loss and a tarnished reputation. Institutions may suffer legal and regulatory consequences, and they must invest money in investigating the incident, paying victims, and improving their security systems to prevent similar instances.
Raising Awareness: Empowering Purnia Residents to Protect Themselves from Biometric Fraud: Purnia must provide its inhabitants with knowledge and techniques to protect their personal information as it deals with the increasing issue of biometric fraud. Individuals may defend themselves from falling prey to these frauds by increasing awareness about biometric fraud and encouraging recommended practices. This blog will discuss the necessity of increasing awareness and present practical recommendations to help Purnia prevent biometric fraud. Here are some tips that one can follow;
- Securing personal Biometric data: It is crucial to safeguard personal biometric data. Individuals should be urged to secure their fingerprints, face scans, and other biometric information in the same way that they protect their passwords or PINs. It is critical to ensure that biometric data is safely maintained and shared with only trustworthy organisations with strong security procedures in place.
- Verifying Service providers: Residents should be vigilant while submitting biometric data to service providers, particularly those providing financial services. Before disclosing any sensitive information, it is important to undertake due diligence and establish the validity and reliability of the organisation. Checking for relevant certificates, reading reviews, and getting recommendations can assist people in making educated judgments and avoiding unscrupulous companies.
- Personal Cybersecurity: Individuals should implement robust cybersecurity practices to reduce the danger of biometric fraud. This includes using difficult and unique passwords, activating two-factor authentication, upgrading software and programs on a regular basis, and being wary of phishing efforts. Individuals should also refrain from providing personal information or biometric data via unprotected networks or through untrustworthy sources.
- Educating the Elderly and Vulnerable Groups: Special attention should be given to educating the elderly and other vulnerable groups who may be more prone to scams. Awareness campaigns may be modified to their individual requirements, emphasising the significance of digital identities, recognising possible risks, and seeking help from reliable sources when in doubt. Empowering these populations with knowledge can help keep them safe from biometric fraud.
Measures to Stay Ahead: As biometric fraud is a growing concern, staying a step ahead is essential. By following these simple steps, one can safeguard themselves.
- Multi-factor Authentication: MFA is one of the best methods for security. MFA creates multi-layer security or extra-layer security against unauthorised access. MFA incorporates a biometric scan and a password.
- Biometric Encryption: Biometric encryption securely stores and transmits biometric data. Rather than keeping raw biometric data, encryption methods transform it into mathematical templates that cannot be reverse-engineered. These templates are utilised for authentication, guaranteeing that the original biometric information is not compromised even if the encrypted data is.
- AI and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML technologies are critical in detecting and combating biometric fraud. These systems can analyse massive volumes of data in real-time, discover trends, and detect abnormalities. Biometric systems may continually adapt and enhance accuracy by employing AI and ML algorithms, boosting their capacity to distinguish between legitimate users and fraudulent efforts.
Conclusion: The Biometric fraud call needs immediate attention to protect the bankers from the potential consequences. By creating awareness, we can save ourselves; additionally, by working together, we can create a safer digital environment. The use of biometric verification was inculcated to increase factor authentication for a banker. However, we see that the bad actors have already started to bypass the tech and even wreak havoc upon the netizens by draining their accounts of their hard-earned money. The banks and the cyber cells nationwide need to work together in synergy to increase awareness and safety mechanisms to prevent such cyber crimes and create effective and efficient redressal mechanisms for the citizens.
Author : Ms. Tanushree Saxena, Trainer, CyberPeace