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CERT-In warns of fake COVID-19 vaccine SMS, says it compromises data on android phones

The harmful SMS has been identified by at least five variants.

May 10, 2021 / 06:22 PM IST
Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

A fake COVID-19 vaccine registration SMS that "maliciously" gains entry into a users' Android phone leading to compromise of individual contact list is in circulation, the federal cyber security agency has alerted.

The harmful SMS has been identified by at least five variants. "It has been reported that a fake SMS message is in circulation that falsely claims to offer an app to let users register for COVID-19 vaccine in India."

"The SMS carries a link that installs the malicious app on Android-based devices, which essentially spreads itself via SMS to victims' contacts," the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team or CERT-In said in a public advisory issued on Saturday. The agency is the federal technology arm to combat cyber attacks and guarding the Indian cyber space against phishing and hacking assaults and similar online attacks.

It added that the "app also gains unnecessary permissions that attackers could leverage to acquire user data such as contact list." Some of its identified variants are: Covid19.apk; Vaci__Regis.apk; MyVaccin_v2.apk; Cov-Regis.apk and Vccin-Apply.apk.

The advisory said that the only "official" online link to register for coronavirus vaccination in the country is the portal– It asked users to be alert against all attempts of phishing through fake domains, emails and text messages that promise registration for a jab against the pandemic.


COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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As part of measures to check such malicious attempts of data breach, it advised users to tune their phone setting in a manner that disables installation of apps through "untrusted sources" and that sides should undertake safe browsing and use trusted anti-virus and internet firewall tools. India at present is administering two COVID-19 vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin — to its citizens and according to official data, the central government has so far provided nearly 18 crore vaccine doses to states and union territories.
first published: May 10, 2021 06:22 pm

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