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Sharmili Mallick

Unidentified cybercriminals reportedly hacked the WhatsApp account of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Odisha Computer Application Centre (OCAC) Manoj Kumar Patnaik, who is also the Additional Secretary of the State Electronics And Information Technology (E&IT) Department, and defrauded around Rs 7 lakh from his friends and acquaintances.

As per reports, the miscreants allegedly hacked Pattnaik’s WhatsApp account before sending distress messages to his contacts by impersonating the user.

As many as five contacts, including Pattnaik’s colleagues, claimed to have transferred money to the bank and UPI accounts shared by the fraudster in the distress message. They have lodged an FIR at the Saheed Nagar Police Station while Pattnaik said he will also file a complaint with the Commissionerate Police soon.

A total of around Rs 7 lakh has been transferred by the five persons to the account shared by the unknown cybercriminals, added reports.
Pattnaik said he had received a call from an unknown number on his WhatsApp on Tuesday afternoon. As the caller did not say anything, he hung up the phone after around 30 seconds.

After some time, Pattnaik received a call from one of his friends who inquired about his health and informed him about the distress message which he had received from Pattnaik’s Whatsapp number seeking urgent financial help for treatment.

“On hearing this, I realised someone has hacked my WhatsApp account. I did not click on any unknown link sent to me by anyone,” informed Pattnaik.

Soon afterwards, Pattnaik started receiving phone calls from his well-wishers who showed him the distress message from his WhatsApp number. Some of them even informed that they had transferred money after getting the phishing message.

Sushant Sahoo, a cyber expert in the City said, “I do not believe that his (Pattnaik) WhatsApp was hacked after receiving a phone call. He must have clicked on some malicious link sent or shared some secret code with someone. A mobile phone can be hacked if one charges his/her phone in public places or uses public WiFi. He must have committed one of these things, following which malware must have gone to his phone which led to the hacking,” he added.

Following the incident, the E&IT department has started sanitising people about cyber frauds.

“The department has issued an advisory on WhatsApp phishing. Hackers target victims via WhatsApp voice calls or suspicious links on social media, SMS, WhatsApp. By adopting proper precautionary measures, hackers can be kept at bay without uninstalling the App,” the E&IT department tweeted.

The department has also issued do’s and don’ts to be followed in case of WhatsApp phishing.

 

Meanwhile, taking suo motu cognizance of the matter, the Odisha Crime Branch has initiated a probe into the fraud case. A special team of the CB has reached the OCAC office in the Capital City for investigation. Further details awaited.
 

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