India reaches out to China for 15 million PPEs

GS Paper III

Topic: International relations, science and technology

Prelims: Active pharmaceutical indicators

What’s the News?

To meet its requirement of 15 million personal protection equipment (PPEs), which includes gowns, masks, gloves and goggles, India has now reached out to China and has placed orders.

Indian dependent on China:

  • These were revealed by Indian ambassador to China Vikram Misri in an online briefing from Beijing.
  • This essentially means that India is depending on China for the PPE overalls as Indian doctors have complained of shortage of PPEs in the hospitals.
  • This comes at a time when China is facing complaints of exporting low quality items from European countries.
  • However, after facing criticism, China stepped up quality checks on exports of 11 categories of medical products, including masks, protective suits, goggles and ventilators.

Active pharmaceutical indicators (APIs):

  • Indian envoy to China Misri also said the two countries can cooperate on pharmaceuticals, specially the active pharmaceutical indicators (APIs).
  • These are being procured from Chinese companies by the Indian government and private companies. The Indian Embassy in Beijing is facilitating the procurement. China had donated 1,70,000 PPE coveralls earlier, officials said.
  • More than 5,00,000 testing kits from China have already been delivered to various entities, while 1 to 1.5 million test kits are at different stages of procurement and production.

Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients are the substances used in the fabrication of pharmaceutical drugs responsible for beneficial health effects produced by use of the product.

Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients are chemically and biologically active components of drugs with direct effect in cure, mitigation, treatment and prevention of diseases.

An active ingredient (AI) is the ingredient in a pharmaceutical drug that is biologically active.

Oppourtunity of cooperation:

  • This offers us opportunity of cooperating in smooth manner. We are identifying bona fide suppliers and entering into agreements.
  • What is important is quality material continues to be available at reasonable and stable prices and we are able to re-establish freight and cargo lines.

Two-way relations:

  • When China was at the height of dealing with this outbreak, we had offered and provided medical assistance.
  • India appreciated efforts by China to ensure the quality of goods being exported and requested the Chinese government to expedite the new registration process of the local companies.

Cyber frauds trying new ways, it’s important to secure data, accounts

GS Paper III

Topic: Science and technology

Prelims: Phishing

What’s the News?

  • The COVID-19 outbreak presents a global challenge not just for the medical fraternity and society, but for law enforcement agencies also.

Cyber crime:

  • Cyber crime, like a pandemic, knows no state borders. A few people are attempting novel ways of defrauding innocents using information and technology.
  • Money is being siphoned off using fake accounts and exploiting vulnerabilities of various applications.

Coronavirus pandemic: UPI and related frauds

  • On March 29, the DCP Cyber Crime, Delhi’s official Twitter account alerted citizens about a fake UPI (Unified Payments Interface) ID of the PM CARES Fund, pmcare@sbi – the correct UPI ID to donate for coronavirus victims is pmcares@sbi.
  • The Delhi police took suo motu cognisance of the fraud, registered an offence of cheating under sections 419 and 420 of IPC, and blocked this and a number of other similar accounts.
  • The number of persons cheated and amount defrauded can only be known when the investigation is over.

UPI is a real-time payment system developed by National Payments Corporation of India for inter-bank transactions.

The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and instantly transfers funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform.

The NPCI keeps record of all the accounts and transactions.

Phishing:

  • Phishing is when the offender creates a similar-looking ID to deceive users.
  • It is very easy to create an account using the UPI platform. One just needs an ID that could be even one’s mobile number or name, and a four-digit PIN.
  • The offence highlighted by the DCP, in fact, has nothing to do with the security of UPI as such.

Doing Know Your Customer (KYC):

  • Within the limits set by each bank, any amount can be exchanged instantly using such apps, and the defrauded amount could be huge.
  • Second, the imposter can immediately withdraw the amount and flee, as there is no caveat on withdrawal.
  • Also, if the bank has not done the Know Your Customer (KYC) process thoroughly, nabbing the culprit may become difficult.
  • It is important to verify the destination UPI ID from authentic sources before making any transaction. If a mobile phone with a UPI-enabled app is stolen, it must be blocked and the bank intimated before it could be misused.
  • Banks also must adhere to the KYC guidelines issued by the RBI, so that the address of each customer is checked physically.

Facebook fraud

  • Facebook is often used for fraud. If the privacy settings are not consciously set to protect an account, it is always susceptible to hacking.
  • Most users don’t change the default settings and keep them ‘public’. This makes it very easy for a cyber criminal to download a profile photo and create a fake account.
  • Sometimes, people also exchange their bank account details, mobile number and other sensitive information on Facebook. Further, if the password on Facebook is weak, it can easily be cracked and the account hacked.
  • Cases of fake Facebook accounts are being reported where money has been fraudulently asked for the treatment of alleged patients by hacking their accounts.
  • It is therefore, best, to keep the privacy settings at ‘Only me’ or ‘Friends’ and not to share sensitive information on social media. Privacy settings can also be changed for every post and photo.

Loss of confidentiality

  • The lockdown has forced many to work from home. Unless the organisation has its own infrastructure and uses VPN (virtual private network) for accessing its resources, the use of public platforms may result in loss of confidential data. Recently, the popular videoconferencing app Zoom, which can add up to 100 participants in a call, has come across as vulnerable.
  • When one uses Zoom, it seeks permission for accessing the user’s microphone, web-cam and data storage. This can result in hijacking and loss of private data.
  • Users may also experience ‘Zoomraiding’ or ‘Zoombombing’ in which hate speech, pornography or other content is suddenly flashed by disrupting a video call on Zoom.

Interpol’s advisory

  • In guidelines for law-enforcement agencies, Interpol warned about the emerging trend of false or misleading advertisements about medical products, setting up of fraudulent e-commerce platforms, phishing etc during the pandemic.

Its recommendations:

  • It has recommended that people avoid opening suspicious emails and clicking links in unrecognised emails and attachments; back up files regularly; use strong passwords; keep software updated; and manage social media settings and review privacy/security settings.
  • Cyber experts also recommend the use of ‘https’ protocol for secure financial transactions.
  • In case you become a victim, report it to the police immediately. These are computer-related wrongs covered under the IT Act, 2000, liable for penalty and compensation, and criminal liability in appropriate cases.

U.S. approves sale of missiles, torpedoes to India

GS Paper III

Topic: Science and technology, Defence

Prelims: Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)

What’s the News?

The U.S. State Department has approved two potential missile deals with India, for an estimated $92 million and $63 million.

The first deal:

  • The first deal, for which Boeing is the contractor, is for ten AGM-84L Harpoon Block II air launched missiles and related equipment.
  • These missiles can be fitted onto Boeing’s 8-PI (Poseidon Eight India) maritime patrol aircraft and are intended to enhance India’s capability in anti-surface warfare while defending its sea lanes.

The second deal:

  • The second deal, for $63 million and principally contracted with Raytheon Integrated Defense System, is for 16 MK 54 All Up Round Lightweight Torpedoes (LWT); three MK 54 Exercise Torpedoes (MK 54 LWT Kit procurement required); and related equipment.
  • Also included are MK 54 spare parts; torpedo containers;
  • Two recoverable Exercise Torpedoes (REXTORP) with containers and related equipment.

Significance:

  • The torpedoes are expected to enhance India’s anti-submarine warfare capability and can be used with the P-8I.
  • There are no known offset agreements for both deals, the State Department said, and any offset agreements will be defined in negotiations between India and the contractors.
  • The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification to the U.S. Congress, notifying it of the possible sale.
  • As per the U.S.’s Arms Export Control Act, Congress has 30 days to raise objections to the sale in the case of India.

Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA):

  • COMCASA stands for Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement and is one of the four foundational agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries and sale of high end technology.
  • COMCASA is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA). It comes into force immediately, and is valid for a period 10 years.
  • This agreement was essential to sell some of the high end equipment and will enable access to advanced defence systems and enable India to optimally utilize its existing U.S.-origin platforms.
  • COMCASA allows India to procure transfer specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platforms like the C-17, C-130 and P-8Is. Currently, these platforms use commercially available communication systems.
  • This will also enable greater communications interoperability between the militaries of India and the US. Data acquired through such systems cannot be disclosed or transferred to any person or entity without India’s consent.

Conclusion:

  • Defence has a major role in the relationship of the two countries which are becoming part of each other’s supply chains.
  • In the last few years, there has been unprecedented growth in the inter-operability between our militaries.
  • Together, India and U.S will defend sovereignty, security and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region for the many many generations to come.

Amid lockdown, poachers eye rhino horns

GS Paper III

Topic: Environment and Conservation

Prelims: International Rhino Foundation

Mains: Lockdown and poaching

What’s the News?

The COVID-19 lockdown has activated poachers who had been forced into lying low for more than a year. At least six thwarted attempts have been made within a week in and around Assam’s national parks.

Myth around rhino horns:

The rhino horn trade is driven by the myth that it is an aphrodisiac besides rumours that it can cure people of COVID-19. A rhino horn is nothing but dead keratin cells, similar to human hair and nails.

Wildlife officials’ views:

  • They have not ruled out the possibility of the poachers trying to strike while the demand for animal body parts, specifically the rhino horn, remains low due to the impact of the pandemic on the grey market and make a killing later when it rebounds.
  • Forest guards had been alerted to the possibility of more “unavoidable pressure” from the poachers.

Lockdown and poaching:

  • Lockdown appears to have given rhino poachers free time to regroup and plan strikes in Kaziranga after more than a year.
  • The poachers know there will be demand for rhino horns in China and other consumer countries in Asia after the pandemic-induced slump is over.
  • The lockdown has inadvertently made it easier for the poachers by thinning the ranks of the network of local people who had hitherto been a critical part of the anti-poaching campaign by tipping off forest officials on any suspicious movements near the parks.

Police officials:

The detained poachers had confessed to having planned to “stock up on animal body parts” during the ongoing “lean period” to strike it big when the demand from smugglers increases.

Wildlife activists:

Meanwhile, wildlife activists are worried by reports that rhino horns and bushmeat were being offered through social media sites in China as cure for people infected by the novel coronavirus.

The International Rhino Foundation:

It has insisted that China, Vietnam and other countries must do more than merely banning wildlife trade temporarily.

The International Rhino Foundation was founded in 1989 in response to the dramatic declines in Black Rhino population numbers in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa.

At that stage, it was called the International Black Rhino Foundation, and was most effective in doing away with almost all poaching, and stabilising the Black Rhino population. However, it soon became clear that all rhino species faced enormous challenges and threats, and not only the Black Rhino.

It was in 1993, then, that the official name of the organisation changed to its current name, and that its efforts became globally relevant.

The IRF focuses on areas and projects that will have the most significant and most positive effects. As and when necessary, the IRF will partner with various other organisations and companies in order to achieve maximum effects.

Conclusion:

Extra effort should go into foiling the bids by illegal wildlife traders who may cash in on the coronavirus fears and sell rhino horns as a cure.