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Prime Minister Narendra Modi (ANI photo)

NEW DELHI: The global Twitter celebrity hack hit India as an account linked to PM Narendra Modi’s personal website was crashed into with cyber criminals seeking donations in cryptocurrency for Covid-19 relief. While the account was restored soon, it is understood that India’s top cybersecurity nodal agency, CERT-In is now looking into the matter and has sought explanations from Twitter, sources told TOI.

On its part, Twitter said that it is investigating the matter while assuring that it is “not aware of additional accounts being impacted”.

Interestingly, the government had served a notice on Twitter in mid-July too after the global hack as the IT ministry tried to find out whether there was any breach in India as well at that point in time. In the present incident, the verified Twitter account of PM Modi’s personal website @narendramodi_in was hacked in the wee hours of Thursday as the gate-crashers sought funds. “I appeal to you all to donate generously to PM National Relief Fund for Covid-19. Now India begins with cryptocurrency. Kindly donate bitcoins to (bitcoin wallet address),” the hackers tweeted from the verified handle around 3.15am. The account, which has over 2.5 million followers, has so far posted 37,000 tweets since it was created in May 2011. The account though was restored within an hour and the malicious tweets deleted.

Modi functions through two more verified Twitter handles: @PMOIndia (38.4 mn followers) and @narendramodi (61.8 mn followers).

“We’re aware of this activity and have taken steps to secure the compromised account. We are actively investigating the situation,” a Twitter spokesperson said, adding that it is not clear whether any other accounts have also been compromised. “At this time, we are not aware of additional accounts being impacted.”

The company claims that as per its investigation, the hack was “not due to a compromise of Twitter’s systems or service”, ruling out any possible link with the July celebrity hack incidents. “There is no indication or evidence of any correlation between this account compromise and the incident that took place in July,” Twitter said.

In the July incidents, cyber attackers had hacked into the Twitter accounts of famous western personalities such as former US President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as well as corporate such as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. It was purportedly linked to a Bitcoin scam, and the incident had also seen CERT-In step in as it sought explanations from the company on any possible attacks in India.

In an email, the hackers claimed that they are based in Korea and had hacked the PM’s website account to “clear their name” from an earlier data breach incident. The hackers, whom TOI contacted, did not specify North or South Korea.

The hackers had identified themselves as “John Wick” and posted another tweet. “Yes this account is hacked by John Wick ([email protected]), We have not hacked Paytm Mall,” they said in a tweet, posted around 3.16am. John Wick is a Hollywood vigilante action thriller franchise with actor Keanu Reeves playing the title role.

The hackers, whose name was earlier linked to a data breach in Paytm Mall app, said they wanted to “send a message” that they had not hacked the Paytm Mall database. “There is no other intention to hack this account. Recently fake news of our name saying paytm mall hacked by us, So we have sent email to all news publishers in India it’s not us, (and) no one replied, so we decided to post something (sic),” they wrote.

Although the hackers did not respond to questions on how they carried out the hack, they said they “exploited a bug in the PM’s website” to gain access to his website’s verified Twitter handle. “That was fun, we know zero guys pay from India,” they replied when asked if they received Bitcoins to their wallet.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

Won’t accept any attempt to unilaterally change LAC: Jaishankar

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NEW DELHI: India will not accept any attempt to unilaterally change the Line of Actual Control (LAC) said foreign minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday evening. The pandemic, he said, had put “severe stress” on the India-China relationship.

Delivering the Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture, he said, ties with China had been stable for three decades, “as the two nations addressed inherited challenges and new circumstances. ”

“Peace and tranquillity in the border areas provided the basis for expanded cooperation in other domains. But as the pandemic unfolded, the relationship has come under severe stress. To restore normalcy, agreements between the two countries must be respected scrupulously in their entirety. Where the Line of Actual Control is concerned, any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo is unacceptable.”

India, Jaishankar said, “will approach the world in a more proactive way in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

“Indian diplomacy will be more integrated with our defence and security needs, more supportive of our economic and commercial interests, more aware of our technology capabilities and offerings, and more sensitive to the diaspora.”

Acknowledging the difficulties of two civilisations, India and China, growing side by side, Jaishankar said, “the relationship cannot be immune to changes in the assumptions that underpinned it.”

“Large civilizational states re-emerging in close proximity will not have naturally easy ties. Their interests are best served by a sustained engagement based on mutual respect and mutual sensitivity.”

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INDIA

EC action against BJP’s Imarti Devi over poll code violations

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NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Saturday imposed a 24-hour campaign ban on BJP leader Imarti Devi due to poll code violations.

“BJP leader Imarti Devi has been barred from holding, anywhere in MP, public meetings, public processions, public rallies, roadshows and interviews, public utterances in media in connection with ongoing elections for one day on November 1,” the poll panel said.

Earlier this week, the election commission had issued a notice to Imarti Devi, who is contesting a bypoll in Madhya Pradesh, for allegedly describing an unnamed political rival as “insane” and making remarks against women members of his family.

Devi, who is also a minister in the Madhya Pradesh government, did not name the political rival in a video on social media.

According to the transcript of the video, Imarti Devi said after the person left the chief minister’s post in Madhya Pradesh, he became “insane” (pagal).

Devi was involved in another incident earlier when senior Congress leader Kamal Nath called her an “item” during an election rally. Following his remarks, Nath was served a notice by the EC and later removed as Congress’ “star campaigner”.

Bypolls to 28 Madhya Pradesh assembly seats will be held on November 3.

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INDIA

Covid-19: Indian students speak of depression and isolation at UK universities under lockdown, some plan to return to India

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LONDON: Indian students in Manchester have spoken of their isolation and depression at being stuck in their rooms all day since all teaching went online and the city moved into a harsh lockdown owing to rising Covid-19 cases.

Five joined a protest outside the university offices holding placards saying “Are we paying £22k for this?” and “Was it worth me flying from India to attend an online class?”. The students want greater offline social activities, blended teaching, mental health support and a reduction in fees.

“I have not experienced 5% of university life this year. It was our last year to have fun and live university life. Now everything is ruined,” said Danish Hussain (21) of Ajmer, in the final year of his £15k-a-year undergraduate degree in tourism management at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). He returned to India in the spring, when Covid cases were rising, and returned in September expecting teaching to be blended.

But on October 7, the University of Manchester (UoM) and MMU moved all teaching online after young people accounted for 55% of Covid-19 cases. On October 23 the city went into a Tier 3 lockdown.

“I don’t know why they can’t divide us into groups and do face-to-face learning with social distancing. The teachers come on video chat but I’m not getting to interact with classmates. We don’t have anywhere to go. You can’t meet new people. Everyone is stressed,” he said. “There used to be so many house parties in Manchester, now it is dead.”

He is staying alone in a house-share as less students have come because of Brexit and Covid-19, he said.

MMU told TOI it had increased investment in its counselling services and from November 2 it will offer up to three hours of on-campus activity each week.

“The isolation is the worst part. It makes you feel so demotivated. The main struggle is not money, it is mental health,” said Shubhi Verma, 25, from Bhopal, who is doing an intellectual property masters at the UoM costing £19,500 a year. “I could have done this in India and saved a lot of money. There are no contact hours with the professor. How can you create a relationship online? Online teaching is on Zoom but there is a lack of interaction. We have to stay in a bubble and can only interact with people we live with. We want more pastoral support. The societies have become WhatsApp groups. We are sat in our rooms and it is depressing,” Verma said.

“I think if you meet people in person you feel more pressured to do your work. Now no one feels bothered. People are not doing their work properly. I am just watching Netflix, eating and sleeping,” she said.

The UoM said online teaching would be reviewed on November 11, that the campus remained open, and insisted there were lots of activities.

“Many Indian students want to go back to India at Christmas and stay until the spring. They don’t see the point of being here as their courses are all online, student bars are closing and a lot of events are online. Already 50% didn’t come back in September,” Indian National Students Association UK president Amit Tiwari said.

Ahaan Gupta, 20, a third year undergraduate student of PPE at LSE, is doing just that. He went back in March and has not returned.

“I am at home with my parents and there is less chance of catching it here whereas in the UK there are so many possible interactions in a student halls of residence. The quality of teaching at LSE is really good online. It is the same as offline,” he said. Ahaan is paying £19,000 a year but doing the course from his parents’ home in Delhi.

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