Data breaches forced govt and firms to focus on cyber security


New Delhi : Mega cyber attacks such as “WannaCrypt” and “Petya” this year forced governments and enterprises globally, including in India, to focus and invest more on bolstering their security networks. In the first major attack of the year, the world reeled under “WannaCrypt” that locked files on computers.

Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected with the malware in May. The primary reason for this attack being successful was not the software but human error. On March 14 this year, Microsoft released a security update which addressed the vulnerability in the 16-year-old Windows XP operating system.

Once the patch for the vulnerability was released, hacker group “Shadow Brokers” exploited this loophole and wreaked havoc in 150 countries. Those who installed the update were saved, while several who did not, fell prey to the attack.


Soon after the “WanaCrypt” attack, tens of thousands of computers globally were affected by the “Adylkuzz attack” that shut down SMB networking to prevent further infections with other malware (including the WannaCrypt worm). While Europe and major parts of the world struggled with another big ransomware attack called “Petya”, India also bore the brunt. Some Indian servers were down owing to the Petya attack.

The Shipping Ministry said operations at one of the container terminals at Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) was affected by Petya. Companies like Genesis BM, a public relations firm, had to shut down systems in India after their international servers were attacked.

The month of May saw another cyber attack when a malware called “Judy” hit over 36.5 million Android-based phones, making its way through Google Play Store. In August, the “Locky” ransomware, once considered almost defunct, sent over 23 million emails with the malware to the US workforce in just 24 hours. It scrambled the contents of millions of computers and demanded payment to unlock it.

A group of hackers leaked the “Game of Thrones” script, along with 1.5TB of HBO data that included other popular TV shows. The hacking group demanded approximately $6.5 million worth of Bitcoins from HBO. A group of hackers also penetrated Equifax — one of the largest credit bureaus in the world — and stole personal data of 145 million people. Accountancy firm Deloitte was also targeted by a sophisticated hack that compromised the confidential emails and plans of some of its blue-chip clients and the attack went unnoticed for months.

In November, Yahoo admitted that it was attacked in 2013 wherein criminals had information about all three billion accounts. In another massive attack, hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies. The breach was concealed for more than a year. Most companies fall victim to cyber attackers either because of unpatched software with known vulnerabilities or because of the human factor like people falling victim to phishing emails, Finland-based cyber security firm F-Secure said. Later in the year, the enterprise cyber security company FireEye said Chinese advanced persistent threat (APT) groups that have allegedly been creating cyber havoc internationally will shift their focus in 2018 to countries like India and Hong Kong and groups seen as a threat to Beijing’s influence over global markets.

Slowly becoming aware of emerging cyber threats, organisations worldwide will spend $96.3 billion on security in 2018 — an increase of eight per cent from 2017, according to a Gartner forecast. More than 60 per cent of organisations globally will invest in multiple data security tools by 2020 — up from 35 per cent today, it added. “Cyber attacks such as WannaCry and NotPetya, and most recently the Equifax breach, have a direct effect on security spend, because these types of attacks last up to three years,” the market research firm said.

To ward off future attacks, the Indian government set up NIC-CERT centre to monitor, detect and prevent cyber attacks on government networks. NIC-CERT will work in close coordination and collaboration with sectoral CERTs and CERT-In. Prime Minister Modi inaugurated the fifth edition of the Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) in New Delhi in November that witnessed top global security experts deliberating on ways to fight cybersecurity.




Sensex creates a record at 34,087, oil stocks jump


Mumbai: The benchmark Sensex today achieved yet another record by scaling 34,087 on the back of a rally in healthcare, power and oil stocks. Oil prices surged to the highest level since mid-2015, breaching above the USD 60 a barrel, after a pipeline blast in Libya restricted Opec production. The 30-share Sensex was up 76.71 points, or 0.22 per cent, to scale a new high of 34,087.32, breaching its previous intra-day record of 34,061.88 hit yesterday.

The gauge had gained 254.33 points in the previous two sessions. The broader Nifty was however flat, up 1.75 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 10,533.25. Major movers were Sun Pharma, NTPC, ONGC and Tata Motors, gaining up to 2.88 per cent. Buying by domestic institutional investors continued ahead of December expiry tomorrow.

Asian stocks were mixed today in a holiday-shortened week. Domestic institutional investors (DIIs) purchased equities worth a net Rs 544.50 crore yesterday while foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares worth a net Rs 44.07 crore, provisional data showed.




Maddhyanha project’s application deadline extended to Feb 2018


New Delhi : The last date of receipt of the completed application form with requisite documents, for the Maddhyanha housing project has been extended up to 16 February 2018.

The Project is only 500 meters from the Ruby Crossing at East Kolkata Township area, Kolkata’s high profile growth centre. To consider the high demand of residences in Kolkata, KMDA has decided to allot the ready to move flats through lottery.

Priority was given on good ambience, privacy, security and quality of construction. The Project complex is situated near Rash Behari Connector. The Township is about 2 km. from Gariahat and adjacent to Ruby hospital at EM By-Pass.


Howrah Station, Esplanade, Park Street and Sealdah are about 15 to 20 minutes away from the project area and also have easy accessibility to the Airport. Super-specialty Hospital, Market, happening shopping malls, Gitanjali Stadium, reputed schools and colleges, Police Station, Fire Station are within close proximity. The site is a very serene residential area, surrounded by boundary wall with all necessary amenities available within a walking distance. The Complex has easy access to the buildings through pathways. It has facilities for 24X7 water supply, surface drains, well planned sewerage and drainage network.




GST collections declined in Nov


New Delhi : Goods and services tax (GST) collections slipped for a second straight month in November, to Rs 80,808 crore, down from over Rs 83,000 crore in the previous month, reports PTI. The total GST collection stood at Rs 80,808 crore for November and 53.06 lakh returns have been filed for the month, a finance ministry statement said.

 Of the Rs 80,808 crore collected, Rs 7,798 crore has been garnered as compensation cess in November – the fifth month of the GST roll out. Besides, Rs 13,089 crore has been collected as Central GST (CGST), Rs 18,650 crore as State GST (SGST), and Rs 41,270 crore as Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST). Furthmore, Rs 10,348 crore is being transferred from the IGST to the CGST account and Rs 14,488 crore is being transferred from the IGST to the SGST account by way of a settlement of funds on account of cross utilisation of the IGST credit for payment of CGST and SGST, respectively or due to inter-state business to consumer transactions. Thus, a total amount of Rs 24,836 crore is being transferred from the IGST to the CGST/SGST account by way of the settlement, the statement added. GST collections in July were over Rs 95,000 crore, while in August the figure was over Rs 91,000 crore. In September, it was over Rs 92,150 crore and in October it was over Rs 83,000 crore.




Rising NPA in education loan propelling banks’ stress


New Delhi: Amid the ongoing crisis caused by increasing Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in the banking sector, default payment in education loans is adding on to this, the data released by the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) revealed.

In the educational loans segment, the default in repayment has risen to 7.67 percent of the outstanding amount at March-end, 2017 from 5.7 percent two years ago. Further, the total outstanding education loan at end of the fiscal 2016-17 was Rs 67,678.5 crore, of which Rs 5,191.72 crore could be categorised as NPA.

The data further revealed that the NPA in the aforementioned segment compared to the percentage of total loan has been constantly increasing. In 2014-15, the figures reported were 5.7 percent in 2014-15, 7.3 percent in the following fiscal and 7.67 percent in the last financial year. However, the government had earlier modified the IBA’s Model Education Loan Scheme to reduce the incidence of NPAs in the segment.


A key change made was the extension of repayment period to 15 years and the launch of credit guarantee fund scheme for education loan (CGFEL) for up to 7.5 lakh Rupees. As per the IBA data, state-owned Indian Bank accounted for the maximum education sector bad loan, amounting to Rs 671.37 crore as on March 2017, followed by the State Bank of India (SBI) (Rs 538.17 crore) and Punjab National Bank (Rs 478.03 crores).

In a bid to reduce the stress on the financial sector due to rising NPA, the government had, in October, announced an unprecedented PSU banks recapitalisation program of Rs. 2.11 lakh crore, out of which Rs. 1.35 lakh crore will come from recap bonds, and rest from markets and budgetary support.

“To improve the lending capacity of the banks, we have announced the recapitalisation programme, which is essential to increase public spending on infrastructure, and that expenditure on infrastructure,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said at a press conference in the national capital. Adding to this, he said there is a need to increase public investment, for which, bold steps will be taken by the government to recapitalise banks in the country.




McDonald shops in east, north India hit by supply woes: Vikram Bakshi


New Delhi: McDonald’s estranged JV partner Vikram Bakshi has said nearly all outlets of the fast food chain in East India have been shut and several others in the north are on the brink of closure due to discontinuation of supplies by its logistics partner.

All in all, there are 80 outlets that have been hit by this cut-off in supplies by Radhakrishna Foodland, a move which is seen as a fallout of the ongoing spat between the fast food major and Bakshi. “Almost all the outlets in East India have been shut because of the move by the logistics partner, and others (in North India) are also under pressure due to the supply crunch,” Bakshi told PTI, adding that a total of over 80 outlets are suffering, considering the limited stock each outlet has.

Also Read: McDonald’s terminates franchise deal with CPRL
In a letter dated December 20, Radhakrishna Foodland Pvt Ltd wrote to CPRL, the 50:50 JV between Bakshi and McDonald’s India, saying it is discontinuing the supply chain services due to reduction in volume and uncertainty of future, among others, as also non-payment of a certain additional amount. A copy of the letter has been seen by PTI.


The otherwise massive business in the festive season for McDonald’s is set to hit a bump, which will affect the food chain’s revenue. “Our long-standing logistics vendor Radhakrishna Foodland allegedly in collusion with McDonald’s Corporation and their wholly owned subsidiary McDonald’s India Pvt Ltd… has decided to hold back stock paid for approximately Rs 10 crore by us,” Bakshi said in a letter to landlords and developers of his outlets.

McDonald’s moves NCLAT to challenge Bakshi verdict
He further wrote: “While the American company and its subsidiary, MIPL, may have with their usual mala fide and malicious actions managed to give CPRL a temporary business setback at the end of the year and during this high sale festive season, yet we have made and are making alternative arrangements and shall be back to serve our customers very soon.”

Bakshi has been at loggerheads with the fast food chain over the management of CPRL after he was ousted from the post of MD of the McDonald’s franchisee in August 2013. McDonald’s India in August terminated the franchise agreement and had asked CPRL not to use its brand system, trademark, designs and its associated intellectual property, among others.

Bakshi had moved the NCLT following termination of the licence by McDonald’s India Pvt Ltd (MIPL). When contacted, the McDonald’s India spokesperson said: “We were informed that their vendors have stopped delivering supplies… This is between CPRL and their vendors, not MIPL.




Security in IoT space to be of prime focus in 2018: Experts


Kolkata: Amid a rise in cyber attacks across the world, ensuring the security of devices linked to the Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem will be a key focus of companies in 2018, say experts.

The IoT is a growing network of inter-connected devices that can be accessed through the Internet. “IoT devices have been a cause for concern for consumers. We will see an increase in businesses to ‘secure’ the entire network instead of each individual endpoint, which can help minimise the risk and cost involved in maintaining security across IoT devices,” Juniper Networks VP, security marketing, Franklyn Jones told PTI.

According to a Gartner report, global spend on information security products and services will grow to a massive USD 93 billion in 2018. “As smart technology and IoT becomes more widespread, safeguarding customer data is now even more important. As data breaches reveal sensitive information and can have a direct physical impact, organisations have become responsible and accountability is a key challenge,” said Srinivasan C R, Tata Communications Senior VP, Global Product Management and Data Centre Services.


Businesses will need to strategically develop next-generation frameworks to minimise risk, as cyber-security regulations evolve, he said. “In 2018, security breaches should be thought of as inevitable… as a result, the focus is shifting from prevention to resilience,” Srinivasan said.

In May this year, nearly 100 countries, including India, were hit by a massive ransomware cyber attack. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that infects a computer and restricts users’ access until a ransom is paid to unlock it. A recent study by PwC and Juniper Networks showed that security is the most important priority for both CIOs and VPs of companies, Jones added.




Parliamentary panel tells Govt to take urgent steps to contain NPAs


New Delhi : Concerned over the rising NPAs of banks, a Parliamentary panel has asked the government to take urgent remedial measures to reduce the volume of stressed assets in the system and strengthen the vigilance mechanism.

The Committee on Petition in its report said that it is constrained to note that even after having a ‘vigilance mechanism’ in vogue in the banking system, there were incidences of fraud relating to non-performing assets (NPAs). “In this regard, the Committee opined that merely issuing of guidelines or advisories by the government or the RBI for averting the incidences of fraud relating to NPAs do not seem to have yielded the desired results and the RBI-being a Regulator – does not seem to have succeeded in so far as implementation and enforcement of its own guidelines is concerned,” it said.

The Committee, therefore, recommended that the government impress upon the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to monitor and follow-up strict compliance of relevant instructions with the banks and financial institutions on a regular basis, the panel added.


  It also recommended that the existing vigilance mechanism be re-visited and, if required, the same be amended to provide more teeth to it. The committee has also made a case for amending banking laws, including the SBI Act, to provide for disclosure of names of loan defaulters. The panel recommended that the government make appropriate amendments in “the archaic provisions of the SBI Act and other relevant laws to disclose the names of individuals — who owe money to the Banks or are responsible for bad loans on account of their default to repay”.

  In this regard, it said the Committee appreciated that the RBI was in favour of making available information on ‘wilful defaulters’ in the public domain. However, it added that the Ministry of Finance (Department of Financial Services)/RBI are of the opinion that the disclosure of information of other defaulting borrowers may not be in the interest of the revival of their distressed business units, which may be otherwise viable. It reiterated that they should undertake an “objective examination and analysis of the extant provision(s) for disclosure of details of loan defaulters in the public domain by amending the existing relevant Acts/Rules vis-a-vis the interest of the revival of their distressed business units without having any impact on their viability”.

PSB NPAs

The bad loans of public sector banks (PSBs) stood at Rs 7.34 lakh crore at the end of the second-quarter of the ongoing fiscal, a bulk of which came from corporate defaulters, according to RBI data. However, on the other hand private sector banks’ non- performing assets (NPAs) were considerably low at Rs 1.03 lakh crore by September 30.

“The gross non-performing assets of public sector and private sector banks as on September 30, 2017 were Rs 7,33,974 crore, Rs 1,02,808 crore, respectively,” the finance ministry said citing RBI data. The government said leading corporate houses and companies accounted for approximately 77 per cent of the total gross NPAs from domestic operations for the banks.

Among the major public sector banks, the State Bank of India (SBI) had the highest amount of NPAs at over Rs 1.86 lakh crore followed by the Punjab National Bank (Rs 57,630 crore), the Bank of India (Rs 49,307 crore), the Bank of Baroda (Rs 46,307 crore), Canara Bank (Rs 39,164 crore) and the Union Bank of India (Rs 38,286 crore).

Among the private sector lenders, ICICI Bank had the highest amount of NPAs on its books at Rs 44,237 crore by the end of September, followed by Axis Bank (Rs 22,136 crore), HDFC Bank (Rs 7,644 crore) and the  Jammu and Kashmir Bank (Rs 5,983 crore). A host of provisions have been restored for the recovery of the bad loans, the Ministry said, adding that the network of Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) have been expanded. There are 39 DRTs in operation now, as compared to 33 in 2016-17, which will help reduce pending cases as well as expedite disposal of cases.




Gems and jewellery exports contract 4.8 pc in April-November


New Delhi: Gems and jewellery exports saw a 4.8 percent dip at USD 22.43 billion during April-November this year owing to demand slowdown in major markets, including the US. According to the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) data, exports stood at USD 23.56 billion in the same period last year.

The labour-intensive sector contributes about 14 percent to the country’s overall export. The drop in shipments is mainly due to negative growth in the export of gold jewellery and gold medallions and coins. Industry experts have demanded support for the industry such as incentives under the Merchandise Exports from India scheme (MEIS) to boost the shipments. “We have asked for support under the MEIS and immediate resolution of GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund issue.

Blockage of working capital due to GST is impacting exports,”a GJEPC official, who do not wish to named, said. On December 5, the government extended incentives to sectors such as leather and agriculture with an aim to boost outward shipments that have been disrupted by implementation of the GST.


As per the data, gold jewellery shipments during April-November 2017-18 declined by 3.18 percent to USD 6 billion.Similarly, export of gold medallions and coins contracted by about 50 percent. However, silver jewellery exports went up 18.5 percent to about USD 3 billion during the period. Shipments of cut and polished diamonds reported a growth of just 1.3 percent.

India’s main export destinations are the US, Europe, Japan, and China. America accounts for about one-fourth of the country’s total gems and jewellery exports. On the other hand, import of rough diamonds rose 5.34 percent to about USD 12 billion in April-November. Import of gold bars too increased by 5 percent to USD 3.24 billion.




Airtel Payments Bank head Shashi Arora steps down


New Delhi: In the wake of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) temporarily suspending Aadhaar-related e-KYC verification by Bharti Airtel, Airtel Payments Bank Managing Director and CEO Shashi Arora stepped down from his position.

According to reports, the company in a statement clarified that Shashi was not sacked, adding that he would be pursuing opportunities outside of Airtel. The firm also lauded his contribution and commitment during his stint at Airtel.

Prior to his role as MD and CEO of Airtel Payments Bank, Shashi served as the CEO of Airtel DTH, prior to which he was CEO of Upper North and Delhi telecom circles of Bharti Airtel Ltd.


Arora also served as the Group Marketing Head for Kotak Mahindra Bank handling marketing, brand advertising and PR for all Group Companies including the Bank, MF, Insurance and Securities business.

No official response has been received from the outgoing head.

On a related note, the UIDAI had temporarily prohibited the telecom giant from carrying out Aadhaar-based SIM verification of its customers using e-KYC process.

The decision comes in the wake of accusations and complaints of Bharti Airtel allegedly using the aforementioned verification process to open payments bank accounts of its customers without their knowledge or consent.

It was reported that over 20 lakh customers had received enormous amounts of money in their Airtel bank accounts, which were allegedly operational without their knowledge.

However, the Aadhaar governing body on Thursday reportedly permitted Bharti Airtel to use Aadhaar for re-verification of its mobile customers till January 10. It however clarified that the eKYC licence of Airtel Payments Bank would remain suspended till final enquiry is completed and audit report screened.




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