Intelligence alerts point to malware attack and snooping of data on Railways

Agencies
June 20, 2020

At a time when the country is yet to recover from the shock of losing 20 Indian soldiers in a violent clash with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops in Ladakh's Galwan Valley, another shocker has come to light with news coming of a malware hitting the Indian Railways network and snooping its data for foreign countries, including train movements, sources in the intelligence agencies said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Railways Board Chairman V K Yadav said that the national transporter keeps on receiving malware security threats and the engineers in the railways keep on taking all precautions and keeps on updating the firewalls to prevent data theft.

The news comes a day after the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation Limited (DFCCIL) decided to terminate the 417-km signalling project worth Rs 471 crore with Chinese firm Beijing National Railway Research and Design Institute of Signal and Communication Group Company Limited (BNRRDISC) due to non-performance.

According to intelligence agency sources, the system of the Railways has been hit by the APT 36 Malware campaign. The source said that the intel agencies have also alerted the Railway Board to instantly disconnect the system with the Internet and change the password immediately.

The source said the APT 36 Malware is connected to Pakistan, which is a close ally of China. The source further said that following the red flag from the intel agencies, the system of a senior Principal Executive Director of the Railways, working in its vigilance department, has been taken for cleaning the malware threat.

As per the source, through the APT 36 Malware campaign, data stored in the Indian Railways systems were being stolen and stored in foreign locations, including the movement of the trains.

He further claimed that the APT 36 Malware also tried to take defence movement data. 

The source said the APT 36 Malware effect was reported from at least four systems of the Indian Railways.

Responding to queries, the Railways Board Chairman said: "Whether it is our systems or the IRCTC, we continuously update it with firewalls, and it is an ongoing process as we get the updates." 

Yadav said that our system is updated time to time. "We get malware threat on a regular basis. And we look at it continuously," he said. 

When pressed further about the malware threat in four railways systems, he said: "It has not come to our notice that some information has been leaked. Our systems are secure and our engineers keep on working on it."

According to intel sources, besides Railways, there was also malware threat in the defence, central police organisations, education and healthcare sectors, the source said.

In view of the threat, the intel agencies have asked the departments concerned to change the passwords of emails and online services from secure computers, format the hard-disk of the affected computers after taking back-up and re-install the operating systems and other softwares.

Sources in the Railways had said on Thursday that DFFCIL, which is looking after the work of the Dedicated Freight Corridor Project, has decided to terminate the tender with BNRRDISC.

A source in the Railway Ministry said that it has informed the Railway Board and the World Bank to take the final decision in the matter.

The source said the project was awarded to the Chinese firm in 2016 for signalling and telecommunication work on the 417-km Kanpur-Deen Dayal Upadhyaya section of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC). 

The source disclosed that the contract was awarded to the Beijing National Railway Research and Design Institute in June 2016. The source further said that even after four years, the progress in the project was only 20%. The issues that led to the termination of the project are reluctance by the company to furnish technical documents, as per the contract agreement, such as logic design of electronic interlocking.

The source further said that other issues like non-availability of their engineers and authorised personnel on site were a serious constraint. Even physical work could not progress as they have no tie-up with local agencies. 

The 3,373-km DFC, a flagship project of the Railways, aims to augment rail transport capacity to meet the growing requirement of movement of goods by segregating freight from passenger traffic.

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Agencies
November 24,2020

 

Geneva, Nov 24: "There is now real hope that vaccines, in combination with other tried and tested public health measures, will help to end the pandemic," said the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The WHO chief's remarks came after drugmaker AstraZeneca said on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine, developed with Oxford University, was up to 90 percent effective, making it the third major drug company after Pfizer and Moderna to have reported late-stage data for a potential COVID-19 vaccine, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

"The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated. No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development," Tedros added.

He pointed out now the international community must set a new standard for access, as "the urgency with which vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly."

Worried that the poorest and most vulnerable countries will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines, WHO established the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator to support global efforts in developing vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, and has joined so far 187 countries in the COVAX facility to collaborate on the procurement and rollout of vaccines, ensuring affordable prices, volumes and timing for all countries.

According to the WHO chief, some US $4.3 billion is needed immediately to support the mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, tests and treatments, while additional US $23.8 billion will be needed next year.

"The International Monetary Fund estimates that if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely, it could lead to a cumulative increase in global income of almost US $9 trillion by the end of 2025," he said.

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Agencies
November 25,2020

In view of the winter season and COVID-19, health experts on Wednesday said that many people are taking pneumonia and influenza vaccines as a precaution to save themselves from respiratory infections.

Experts have warned that it is highly possible that people may contract both influenza and the COVID-19 infection in winter, leading to devastating consequences.

Dr Avi Kumar, Consultant - Pulmonology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi said, "What we are generally following is that in post COVID patients we are giving flu vaccine as well as the pneumonia vaccine."

"Because right now we are at the start of winter and this is generally the beginning of flu season as well as coronavirus. Both are RnA viruses so the vaccine which is available against influenza is known to be very helpful in reducing hospitalization," Kumar explained.

International researchers have recently found that receiving the influenza vaccine does not increase a person's risk of contracting COVID-19 or worsen associated morbidity or mortality.

Published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, the study shows the flu vaccine is the single most important intervention to help in staying healthy this fall and winter.

"More studies need to be done to confirm the same, only a few studies cannot confirm it," Kumar said.

"However, what is available with us right now is prevention of other respiratory infections in the form of flu as well as pneumonia so that hospitals are not overburdened with other respiratory illnesses as well as Covid patients," he added.

"Hence, we prefer tetravalent inactivated flu vaccine which has been given to every patient in post Covid status.

"In addition we have been giving them vaccines for pneumonia, conjugate vaccine is been given to the age group of above 65 years, this vaccine is given only once in a lifetime. We are also giving a polyvalent vaccine which is to be repeated once in every five years," Kumar said.

According to Dr Akshay Budhraja, Consultant Department of Pulmonology, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, in the absence of a vaccine specific to the Covid-19 virus right now, they are checking the vaccination history of the patient.

"We give one shot of flu vaccine every year and pneumococcal vaccine is given once in five years. As of now, we have not faced any shortage," Budhraja told IANS.

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Agencies
November 26,2020

Geneva, Nov 25: Approximately once every minute and 40 seconds, a child or young person under the age of 20 was infected with HIV last year, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Wednesday.

Prevention efforts and treatment for children remain some of the lowest amongst key affected populations, and in 2019, a little less than half of children worldwide did not have access to life-saving treatment, UNICEF said in a new report.

Nearly 3,20,000 children and adolescents were newly infected with HIV and 1,10,000 children died of AIDS last year, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"Children are still getting infected at alarming rates, and they are still dying from AIDS. This was even before Covid-19 interrupted vital HIV treatment and prevention services putting countless more lives at risk," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

According to UNICEF, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened inequalities in access to life-saving HIV services for children, adolescents and pregnant mothers everywhere, and there are serious concerns that one-third of high HIV burden countries could face coronavirus-related disruptions.

"Even as the world struggles in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, hundreds of thousands of children continue to suffer the ravages of the HIV epidemic," said Fore.

Data from the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), cited in the report, showed the impact of control measures, supply chain disruptions, lack of personal protective equipment, and the redeployment of healthcare workers on HIV services.

Pediatric HIV treatment and viral load testing in children in some countries fell by 50 to 70 per cent, and new treatment initiation by 25 to 50 percent in April and May, coinciding with partial and full lockdowns to control the novel coronavirus.

Health facility deliveries and maternal treatment were also reported to have reduced by 20 to 60 per cent, maternal HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation by 25 to 50 per cent, and infant testing services by approximately 10 percent.

Though the easing of control measures and the strategic targeting of children and pregnant mothers have successfully led to a rebound of services in recent months, challenges remain, and the world is still far from achieving the global 2020 pediatric HIV targets, said UNICEF.

Despite some progress in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS, deep regional disparities persist among all populations, especially for children.

While the Middle East and North Africa region recorded 81 percent pediatric ART coverage, only 46 per cent and 32 per cent were covered in Latin America and the Caribbean, West and Central Africa, respectively.

The South Asia region recorded 76 per cent coverage, Eastern and Southern Africa 58 per cent, and East Asia and the Pacific 50 per cent.

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