The HINDU Notes – 16th April


🌐 Hacked: How $171 mn stolen from Union Bank was recovered

  • Even as the government marked Digital India Dayon 14 April 2017, encouraging more Indians to move to banking online,investigators and cyber security agencies are battling more breaches of banking transfer security, admitting that “non-state” actors are increasingly targeting India.
  • Details are only just emerging of the biggest such hack of $171 million in July 2016, which necessitated a seven country hunt that had to be spearheaded at the top levels of government to reverse the theft.
  • The hack involved a transfer double the size of the Bangladesh Central Bank that lost $81 million in February 2016, but most details have been kept under wraps so far.
  • Chairman of the Union Bank of IndiaArunTiwari as well as India’s first Chief Information Security Officer, Dr. GulshanRai, who were involved in the operation, confirmed that while the attack was serious, all of the money had been retrieved within days.

  • “We worked in record time with the Reserve Bank of India, bank authorities and government agencies coordinating efforts. The bank succeeded in blocking the transfer of funds and credited the entire amount in a record period of six days,” Mr. Raisaid.
  • “Investigations have been carried out by different agencies. And whatever was suggested [to improve security], has been implemented,” Mr. Tiwari said.
  • Events unfolded on the evening of July 20, towards the end of the bank-week, officials said, piecing together the sequence.
  • On that day, a Union Bank of India official in the treasury department looking at SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) payments was checking statements for the day from their dollar account, when he noticed a startling discrepancy.
  • An amount of $171 million had been debited from the bank without his authorisation.
  • He quickly raised a red flag to the bank’s top management about the transaction.
  • “I haven’t authorised any such payment last night,” he reportedly told the bank’s management.
  • By then the money had found its way to at least five locations, including accounts in Cambodia’s Canadia Bank and RHB IndoChina Bank, Thailand’s Siam Commercial Bank, Bank Sinopac in Taiwan, and a bank in Australia.
  • These funds were routed by Citibank New York and JP Morgan Chase New York, which hold UBI’s foreign exchange accounts.
  • According to cybersleuths, who were brought into the investigation, the hacking had occurred by sending malware to a bank official, who mistakenly opened an email that enabled the robbery.
  • One tricky negotiation was with the Taiwanese government with which India doesn’t have diplomatic ties, particularly as a court order was needed to secure the banking reversal instruction.
  • However, with some pushing from U.S. officials, the entire $171 million was traced.
  • As the money trickled back into their accounts, Union Bank officials heaved a sigh of relief.
  • Despite the speed and efficiency of operations to recover the money, not much is known about the follow-up investigations.
  • An FIR was filed only a month later on August 25 (FIR 243/2016) at Mumbai’s Cybercell, but bank officials said they had no information of further follow-ups including details of a charge sheet, or investigations in any of the six other countries involved.

🌐 The lowdown on the Goods and Services Tax

  • It’s the new system proposed to be rolled out from July 1 this year for taxing all goods and services that you consume.
  • The Goods and Services Tax or GST will replace the myriad local, State-level and Central taxes that are built into the price you pay for products, and the service tax as well as cessesthat are dovetailed to your outgoes when you dine at a restaurant or pay your mobile phone bills.

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  • Petroleum products and alcohol are being kept out of the GST net for now.
  • The GST Council, with representatives from the States and the Centre, has thrashed out the nitty-gritty of the new regime, including fiverate slabs (zero, 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%) and an additional cess on top of the highest GST rate on sin goods, such as luxury cars and tobacco.
  • Unlike income tax, which just a small segment of India’s mammoth 1.3 billion plus population end up paying, virtually everyone, including the poorest of the poor, pay indirect taxes on products and services, be it a shampoo sachet or a mobile phone recharge.
  • Besides improving tax compliance from traders, the GST regime is expected to boost economic growth by a percentage point or two, despite the risk of an initial blip, the government and industry bodies reckon.
  • Investors, often put off by India’s complex taxation structure, should find it easier and more attractive to do business in the country and create an important byproduct for India’s fast-growing, young workforce – jobs.

Read more: All you need to know about GST: FAQs

🌐 Centre to promote use of technical textiles

  • Technical textiles or functional textiles, considered a sunrise sector in the country, is all set for demand taking off for products such as geo and agro textiles.
  • Geo textiles, for example, are permeable fabrics that are used in association with soil and which have the ability to separate and filter, while agro-textiles are used in shading and in weed and insect control.

  • In a bid to increase use of technical textiles in Government projects, ministry is trying to promote interface with other ministries.
  • The technical textiles sector had a compounded annual growth rate of 12% for the last three years.
  • The aim is to create awareness, promote use of technical textile products, then ensure the usage is mandated in at least some areas.
  • Functional textiles can be woven or non-woven.
  • Automobile, geo, medical, industrial, and agro textiles are among the range of products that are made in the country.
  • Foreign Direct Investments are also coming in, especially for geo textiles.
  • The main challenges for technical textiles in the country are awareness among consumers, need for technology and knowledge about it among entrepreneurs, the investments and time needed to be innovative and develop applications, and raw material availability.

Technical textile

  • A Technical textile is a textile product manufactured for non-aesthetic purposes, where function is the primary criterion.
  • It is a large and growing sector and supports a vast array of other industries.
  • Technical textiles include textiles for automotive applications, medical textiles (e.g., implants), geotextiles (reinforcement of embankments), agrotextiles (textiles for crop protection), and protective clothing (e.g., heat and radiation protection for fire fighter clothing, molten metal protection for welders, stab protection and bulletproof vests, and spacesuits).
  • Nowadays the most widely technical textile materials are used in filter clothing, furniture, hygiene medicals and construction material.

🌐 Indians use origami to get a closer look at beauty

  • The High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation (KEK) in Japan is getting ready to launch the Belle-II experiment, a massive collaboration of 700 scientists from across the globe.

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  • At Belle-II, highly intense electron-positron beams will be made to collide and a huge number of B-mesons (a boson containing the B, or beauty, quark) produced.
  • Building a detector to observe the resultant decay products is a challenging task and that is one area where Indians have contributed significantly.
  • Indians have been involved in the preceding experiment, Belle, for decades now, however, with Belle-II, their engagement is deeper.
  • Indians built the fourth layer of the six-layer silicon vertex detector and developing the analysis and theory.
  • The highly miniaturised sensor engineering and the “origami chip-on sensor” design of the readout chip, which improves the signal to noise ratio, are novel and highly complex aspects.
  • This experiment has the same aim as the LHCb experiment at CERN – to study the decay of the short-lived B-mesons, and unearth clues to “new physics”.
  • If these experiments are successful in their endeavour, they will cause a massive rethink of particle physics as we know it today.

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  • For nearly fifty years, the world of elementary particles has been best described by the Standard Model of Particle Physics.
  • This also provides a unified description of all the forces in the universe except gravitation.
  • It accounts for various particles and how they get their masses with the help of the Higgs boson.
  • However, now many questions remain which could be helped by Belle-II.
  • The group at IMSc focuses on decays in which the beauty quark within a meson changes to a different flavour of quark known as the strange quark.
  • These processes are very rare according to the Standard model, but can possibly be detected at Belle-II and LHCb.

🌐 IISc makes two potent molecules to fight TB

  • Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru have developed two new, potent molecules that can severely impact the survival of mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis that causes TB.

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  • Unlike most antibiotics that target the bacterial metabolism by aiming at the cellular components, the novel molecules inhibit the stress response pathway of mycobacteria.
  • The stress response pathway is crucial for bacteria to survive during hostile conditions such as lack of nutrients and the presence of antibiotics, to name a few.
  • So any inhibition of this pathway will lead to its death.
  • Under hostile conditions, bacteria tend to form biofilms, which protect the bacteria from stress and induce tolerance to antibiotics.
  • Recent studies have shown that tuberculosis bacteria that cannot form a biofilm cannot survive inside the host.
  • The master regulator of stress pathway in the case of mycobacteria is (p)ppGpp (Guanosinepentaphospahte or Guanosinetetraphosphate).
  • They synthesised two new molecules – acetylated compound (AC compound) and acetylated benzoylated compound (AB compound) – by bringing about a modification in the base of the Relacin molecule.
  • They found both the molecules to be very good inhibitors of stress response. The two compounds affected the rate of synthesis of (p)ppGpp and also reduced the cell survival.
  • Laboratory studies showed that the two molecules were not toxic to human cells and were able to penetrate the human lung epithelial cells.

🌐 SC for equal pay to paramilitary officers

  • The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to consider a plea by an association of Central police forces seeking ‘equal pay for equal work’ for performing duties similar to that of group ‘A’ services officers.

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  • “We think it apt to say that if the conferment of monetary benefit can assuage the grievance of the respondents (central police organisations officers), the Union of India may rethink the matter without disturbing its sense of discipline as it conceives. The personnel of BSF, CRPF, CISF, ITBP, RPF and SSB are to play their role in their duties,” a Bench led by Justice DipakMisra observed in a short order.
  • The court named personnel of forces like the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force, Railway Protection Force and SashastraSeemaBal as the aggrieved parties.
  • The Supreme Court was hearing petitions filed by the Indian Police Services Central Association against a December 4, 2012 decision of the Delhi High Court.
  • The Association had challenged the High Court order creating Organised Group ‘A’ Services on the basis of “certain notes, correspondences and the letters” issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), as it is only the Home Department has the authority over it.
  • Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar saidif the officers of Central police organisations were declared as Organized Group ‘A’ Services then there could not be any deputation from the Indian Police Service cadre and no one from there could come on deputation and it was likely to create a parallel system within the force establishment.
  • To consider a batch of petitions, the court decided to frame issues including if by virtue of issuing the office memorandum by the DoPT classifying the categories with regard to centralized Group ‘A’ Services, as a natural corollary, the other police organisations can have the similar benefits with the Organized Group ‘A’ Services.
  • The court said it would also consider whether the Home Department alone was responsible for taking the decision or other departments could confer the benefit of equivalence subject to approval by the Cabinet.
  • The court posted the matter for consideration on August 9.

🌐 Canberra keen on joining naval games

  • Australia is keen on joining the Malabar trilateral naval exercises among India, Japan and the U.S., and has requested observer status at the upcoming 21st edition, scheduled for July.

  • While India is yet to take a call on Australia’s request, a senior defence official indicated that it is unlikely to be accepted.
  • Japan and the U.S. are keen on expanding the games to include Australia with officials from both countries specifically stating so on various occasions.
  • However, India has been reluctant to antagonise China.
  • Australia had been a part of the exercises in 2007. But a sharp response from China, which saw the joint exercises as a coalition against it, put an end to the quadrilateral format.
  • The Malabar drills, which began in 1992 as a bilateral naval exercise between India and the U.S., has since grown in scope and complexity, acquiring considerable heft in recent times.
  • In 2015, it was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan.

🌐 Turkey to vote today on constitutional changes

  • On 15 April 2017, Turkish voters will decide in a constitutional referendum whether to vastly expand the powers of the President,who has overseen the firing of about 130,000 people and the arrest of about 45,000 after a failed coup last year.
  • To reassert control after the failed coup last year, Mr. Erdogan created an administrative vacuum.
  • Many of the purged are accused of association with the movement led by FethullahGulen, a reclusive Muslim cleric in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, who Mr. Erdogan says orchestrated the July 15 uprising.
  • But some are dissidents from secular, leftist or Kurdish backgrounds.
  • More than 120 of them are journalists, according to Amnesty International.
  • The economy is struggling. Nearly 1 in 4 young Turks is out of work. And beyond Turkey’s southern border, Mr. Erdogan has dwindling influence on shaping the outcome of the Syrian civil war, should it finally be settled.
  • Turkey has its own internal battles, too. The Islamic State and Kurdish nationalists are waging separate terrorist campaigns on Turkish soil. Adding to this mess, Erdogan has a toxic relationship with Europe.

🌐 Hackers release files indicating NSA monitored global bank transfers

  • Hackers released documents and files on 14 April 2017 that indicated the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed the SWIFT inter-bank messaging system, allowing it to monitor money flows among some Middle Eastern and Latin American banks.

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  • The release included computer code that could be adapted by criminals to break into SWIFT servers and monitor messaging activity, said a cyber security consultant who has helped banks investigate breaches of their SWIFT systems.
  • The documents and files were released by a group calling themselves The Shadow Brokers. Some of the records bear NSA seals, but Reuters could not confirm their authenticity.
  • Also published were many programs for attacking various versions of the Windows operating system, at least some of which still work, researchers said.
  • In a statement to Reuters, Microsoft, maker of Windows, said it had not been warned by any part of the U.S. government that such files existed or had been stolen.
  • The absence of warning is significant because the NSA knew for months about the Shadow Brokers breach, officials previously told Reuters.
  • Under a White House process established by former President Barack Obama’s staff, companies were usually warned about dangerous flaws.
  • Shook said criminal hackers could use the information released on 14 April 2017 to hack into banks and steal money in operations mimicking a heist last year of $81 million from the Bangladesh central bank.
  • The SWIFT messaging system is used by banks to transfer trillions of dollars each day.
  • Belgium-based SWIFT downplayed the risk of attacks employing the code released by hackers.
  • SWIFT said it regularly releases security updates and instructs client banks on how to handle known threats.
  • SWIFT said it had no evidence that the main SWIFT network had ever been accessed without authorization.
  • It was possible that the local messaging systems of some SWIFT client bankshad been breached, SWIFT said in a statement, which did not specifically mention the NSA.
  • When cyberthieves robbed the Bangladesh Bank last year, they compromised that bank’s local SWIFT network to order money transfers from its account at the New York Federal Reserve.
  • The documents released by the Shadow Brokers indicate that the NSA may have accessed the SWIFT network through service bureaus.
  • SWIFT service bureaus are companies that provide an access point to the SWIFT system for the network’s smaller clients and may send or receive messages regarding money transfers on their behalf.
  • If you hack the service bureau, it means that you also have access to all of their clients, all of the banks.”
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