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A PDF Claiming That CERT-In Issued A COVID-19 Related Advisory About Potential Cyber Attacks From The Chinese Army Is Misleading

Computer Emergency Response Team-India did not mention in their COVID-19 related advisory who was behind the planned phishing attacks.

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A PDF Claiming That CERT-In Issued A COVID-19 Related Advisory About Potential Cyber Attacks From The Chinese Army Is Misleading

Claim 

A PDF with the subject line, Cyber Alert: Reg, states that the Computer Emergency Response Team-India(CERT-In) has issued a COVID-19 related advisory about a potential cyber offensive attack from the Chinese army. 

The PDF which claims to be from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Ministry of Home Affairs and signed by B S N Reddy, Sr. Commandant details that in the guise of a free COVID-19 test, “Chinese cyber warriors could be carrying out a massive phishing attack.” 

We received this PDF on our Whatsapp verification helpline number asking for clarification on the facts included in it. You can read the full document here

Fact Check

As the PDF claimed to source an advisory from the Computer Emergency Response Team-India(CERT-In), we first searched for any such advisory on their website. We found an advisory issued on 19 June, 2020 titled, COVID-19 related Phishing Attack Campaign by Malicious Actors.  

The 19 June CERT-In advisory describes that malicious actors behind the phishing campaign claim to have two million individual/ citizen email IDs and plan to send emails inciting them to provide their personal information. The phishing campaign which was expected to start on 21 June planned to create fake email IDs such as ncov2019@gov.in impersonating various authorities. CERT-In’s advisory states that the phishing email may look as follows:

You can read the detailed advisory in the ‘Advisories’ section on their website. CERT-In also posted about the same on their Twitter profile on 20 June. 

No Title

No Description

News organisations reported on CERT-In’s COVID-19 related phishing attack campaign advisory as well. 

Centre warns of massive phishing campaign mimicking government communication on Covid-19

The Centre on Saturday night warned people of a massive phishing campaign that could mimic official communication on the coronavirus pandemic to steal personal data and financial information from people. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, also known as CERT-In, that works under the Ministry of Information Technology, said that the phishing attack is expected to begin on Sunday, and could use the email ncov2019@gov.in.

However, CERT-In did not mention in their advisory who was behind the planned phishing attacks. A reference link to CYFIRMA, a threat discovery and cyber-intelligence company, backed by Goldman Sachs, at the bottom of the advisory led us to knowing that a North Korean hacker group called Lazarus Group is behind this COVID-19 related phishing campaign. A 18 June report by CYFIRMA says that phishing attacks in India are part of a global campaign by Lazarus that has targeted five other countries apart from India for financial gains. You can read the entire report here

We wrote to CYFIRMA seeking a confirmation on North Korean operatives, Lazarus Group, being behind the COVID-19 related phishing campaign. In their response they confirmed it and said that observations about the global phishing campaign came from research obtained from their platform and monitoring of the dark web. They further explained:

“For Global Phishing campaign, the 6 nations’ CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) authorities have reverted and confirmed the analysis and threat. Pls see IN CERT website for their advisory.”

They also informed us of another piece of research they released on “cyberattacks on Indian assets due to ongoing China-India border crisis.” CERT-In has been alerted of the same, they said. You can read more about it in livemint’s story here

Coming back to the PDF we received on our Whatsapp number for verification, the key points detailed match the information included in CERT-In’s COVID-19 advisory. But contrary to what’s mentioned in the PDF, the advisory does not state that the potential cyber attacks are from the Chinese Army. Nor did we find any other advisory on their website which mention the Chinese army being behind potential cyber attacks. 

We’ve reached out to B S N Reddy, the CISF personnel whose alleged digital signature is on the PDF, for confirmation on this document. 

We also contacted CERT-In asking if they’ve released any advisory which states a “potential cyber offensive attack from the Chinese Army.”

We’re awaiting confirmation from the above sources. This story will be updated if or when we hear from either of them. 

Conclusion 

The PDF we received stating that CERT-In issued an advisory regarding a COVID-19 related potential offensive cyber attack from the Chinese army is misleading. Our research showed that the 19 June CERT-In advisory titled, “COVID 19-related Phishing Attack Campaign by Malicious Actors,” did not mention who was behind the potential cyber attacks. 

Tools Used 

  • Google Advanced Search
  • Twitter

Result: Misleading 

If you would like us to fact check a claim, give feedback or lodge a complaint, WhatsApp us at 9999499044. You can also visit the Contact Us page and fill the form.

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Coronavirus

No, He Is Not Bharat Biotech’s VP Taking The First Dose of COVID Vaccine ‘Covaxin’

Social media users circulated a false image claiming that the vice president of Bharat Biotech has undergone the first clinical trial of the coronavirus vaccine.

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No, He Is Not Bharat Biotech’s VP Taking The First Dose of COVID Vaccine ‘Covaxin’

Several social users posted a picture of a woman thrusting a syringe in man’s vein and claimed that the man in the picture is Bharat Biotech’s Vice President, Dr. VK Srinivas, and the first dose of the vaccine was administered on him.

According to a report in Live Mint, Bharat Biotech, an unlisted Indian vaccine maker, has received regulatory approval to start human clinical trials for its experimental shot. The phase 1 trial of Covaxine will begin next week. The company has planned to enroll 375 people in the first phase of clinical trials.

We found that the same image is viral on Twitter and Facebook with a caption, “Dr. V. K.Srinivas, Vice President, Bharat biotech, taking Corona vaccine clinical trial immediately after taking the first dose. He is the first person in India to take vaccine developed by him and his team in Bharat Biotech. Look at the confidence.”

Fact Check

As we began fact-checking the claim, we looked for some media reports backing the claim, but we did not find any authentic information to corroborate.

However, during our research, we came across the statement tweeted by Bharat Biotech. In a statement posted on their Twitter handle, Bharat Biotech said that individual images and messages circulated on social media platforms had not disseminated by Bharat biotech. The image is a routine procedural blood draw for testing all production staff.

We now searched, if Dr.VK Srinivas is the Vice President of the Bharat biotech. During our research, we did not find any results for his name. We found that Dr. V Krishna Mohan is the Executive Director, and T Srinivas is the Chief Financial Officer of the management team of the pharmaceutical.

Conclusion

It is evident from our fact check that social media users circulated a false image claiming that the vice president of Bharat Biotech has undergone the first clinical trial of the coronavirus vaccine.

Tools Used

  • Google Search
  • Media Reports
  • Twitter Search

Result: False


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Fact check

The Claim On British Airways Permanently Shutting Down Is False

British Airways confirmed with us via email that it’s not shutting down its airline services nor did they create the video in context.

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British Airways Is not Permanently Shutting Down

Claim 

A message claiming the airline service, British Airways, is permanently shutting down due to heavy business loss incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic has been widely circulating on Whatsapp. 

Whatsapp message claim on British Airways permanently shutting down
Whatsapp message claim on British Airways permanently shutting down
Video claiming the closure of British Airways

This Whatsapp message is being shared with the above video claiming to be created by the airlines. 

Similar social media posts claiming BA’s shut down can be viewed here and here

Fact Check

As a first point of verification, we searched through the British Airways (BA) website for any information that suggests their permanent closure. In their Coronavirus travel and service updates section we came across updates on new protective measures introduced by the airline and more. Last updated on 26 June at 15:20 (at the time of writing this fact check), this section does not include any information on permanent closure of their services.

BA published a press release on 2 July, 2020 on their website’s media centre stating that the Airways reopens its routes throughout July. 

British Airways 2 July, 2020 press release on reopening routes
British Airways 2 July, 2020 press release on reopening routes

Next, we looked up their social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for any posts that suggest the closing of BA. Again, we couldn’t find any information related to this on these platforms. 

In fact on 20 June 2020, BA posted a video on their official Youtube page saying they look forward to welcoming people back on board. The description reads:

“In the past few months, we’ve all been missing the people and places we love. When the world opens up once more, we are looking forward to welcoming you back on board…”

British Airways video on welcoming its customers back on board

Verifying the claim video

Through a reverse image search of certain video frames as well as a keyword search on Youtube, we came across a channel named Unite the Union Yout which seems to have originally posted the video in context on 14 June 2020. Its description reads: 

“British Airways has applied to dismiss all of its staff from 15 June 2020. Before we leave you, the staff of British Airways would like to say thank you and goodbye. #WeAreBA” 

On 9 May, this account posted a video titled “A message to British Airways from its staff” after the company announced its plan to lay off thousands of staff members in order to restructure. We found this account to be impersonating another Youtube channel called Unite the Union which is the trade union representing BA’s stewards and stewardesses. The former has copied the actual trade union’s logo as seen below. 

Top image is of the Youtube account impersonating the official trade union channel shown below.
Top image is of the Youtube account impersonating the official trade union channel shown below.

Let’s note that the airline has recently been in news for firing 350 of its staff and putting another 300 staff members in a pool for rehire when needed, reports The Sun. A couple of weeks back a Transport Select Committee Report accused the airline of taking advantage of the pandemic after they announced a massive restructuring which would include 12,000 layoffs and changes to the terms and conditions of remaining staff. 

As a final confirmation, we directly reached out to British Airways, who confirmed with us via email that BA is not shutting down its services and the video in context was not created by them.  

You can read our other fact checks related to COVID-19 pandemic here.

Conclusion 

After receiving official confirmation from British Airways, we can safely say that the airline is not shutting down its services. 

Tools Used 

  • Reverse image search
  • Twitter advanced search
  • Google advanced search

Result: False 

If you would like us to fact check a claim, give feedback or lodge a complaint, WhatsApp us at 9999499044. You can also visit the Contact Us page and fill the form.

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Fact check

Prashant Bhushan Does Not Support Islamic Terrorists Nor Did He File A PIL Against Tik Tok Ban

The claims in context are with regard to Prashant Bhushan, an advocate in the SCI and come after his response to Tik Tok India’s contribution of Rs. 30 crore to the PM Cares fund.

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Prashant Bhushan Does Not Support Islamic Terrorists Nor Did He File A PIL Against Tik Tok Ban

Claim

A Facebook post claims that Prashant Bhushan is standing for Tik Tok and has a history of supporting Islamic terrorists and anti-national people. This claim was posted 1 July, 2020 by a Facebook account called राष्ट्रवाद सर्वोपरि.  On checking its page transparency we found that the account was created on 17, May 2020.

Prashant Bhushan is standing for TikTok. प्रशांत भूषण का इतिहास रहा है हमेशा इस्लामिक आतंकवादी और एंटी नेशनल लोगों का साथ देते हैं l 😡

Người đăng: राष्ट्रवाद सर्वोपरि vào Thứ Tư, 1 tháng 7, 2020

Accompanied with this claim is a screenshot of another post from a Twitter account called The Express of India which claims that Bhushan filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court against the government order to ban 59 Chinese apps. 

https://twitter.com/ExpressOfIndia/status/1278187485294505984?s=20

The screenshot from The Express of India is widely circulating on social media platforms since yesterday. Below is an example of another viral image.

Image of viral social media post claiming Prashant Bhushan files PIL against government order of ban on 59 Chinese apps.
Image of viral social media post

Fact Check

The claims in context are with regard to Prashant Bhushan, an advocate in the Supreme Court of India. These claims come after his response to a Twitter post by Tik Tok India which states that it’s making a contribution of Rs. 30 crore to the PM Cares fund. Bhushan’s 30 June tweet says, “Tik Tok’s humble contribution of 30 Crores to humble Chaiwala’s fund! So ungrateful!” 

The first claim in the Facebook post alleges that Bhushan stands for Tik Tok and has a history of supporting Islamic terrorists and anti-national people. We haven’t found any credible evidence or news story which suggests this. Therefore, this claim has no basis to support it. 

The accompanying screenshot is from a parody Twitter account (@ExpressOfIndia) created on 20 April, 2020 with 571 followers at the time of writing this fact check. The description in its profile reads:

“Independent Satire News Outlet. Parody Editorial. All Tweets Are Fake. In Memory Of @TiimesHow.”

This Twitter account impersonates the actual news organisation The Indian Express by trying to copy its logo, font and doing a wordplay with its name. See image comparing the two accounts below:

Image of parody account on the left. Image of authentic news organisation on the right.
Image of parody account on the left. Image of authentic news organisation on the right.

The parody account in its bio pays its “respect” to the now suspended fake account @TiimesHow

Screenshot of suspended Twitter account @TiimesHow
Screenshot of suspended Twitter account @TiimesHow

Implication of “1 particular community” in the tweet is to the Muslim community in reference to recent stories about them using Tik Tok in this pandemic.  

As a final confirmation, we reached out to Mr. Bhushan himself, who clarified on call that he did not file any PIL in the Supreme Court against the government order of banning the 59 Chinese apps and that the claims are false. 

Our other fact checks related to Tik Tok can be read here.

Conclusion 

The claims in context with regard to Prashant Bhushan are false. 

Tools Used 

  • Twitter advanced search
  • Facebook
  • Google advanced search 

Result: False 


If you would like us to fact check a claim, give feedback or lodge a complaint, WhatsApp us at 9999499044. You can also visit the Contact Us page and fill the form.

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