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    5. Russian scientists are faced with a sophisticated cyber fraud scheme


    Russian scientists are faced with a sophisticated cyber fraud scheme

    Criminals tried to tap phones under the guise of conference organizers

    Russian scientists at universities encountered a new fraud scheme. It can affect all potential participants in scientific conferences, reports the telegram channel of the scientific community “Ivory Zoo”.

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    In recent days, employees of a number of Russian universities who planned to participate in the conference of one respected university received messages in the TG, allegedly from the organizers, that they urgently needed to download and install on their phone a program recommended by the FSB. The message openly reveals that the software takes control of the device and can transfer data from it. According to legend, installing such software is a recommendation from the FSB for… background wiretapping of what is happening at an event. The false organizers of the conference explain this by the danger of a repetition of the tragedy at Crocus. The application allegedly triggers on the words “terrorist attack”, “extremism” and starts the process of transferring data to intelligence services so that they have time to prevent a possible incident.

    When calling back to the real organizers, the information about the need to download eavesdropping software was not confirmed.

    Let us recall that in past years, cyber fraudsters “swindled” gullible academicians and corresponding members on Telegram, contacting them allegedly on behalf of the Minister of Science or the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences and demanding to share personal data with law enforcement agencies. At first, many believed that this was how scammers from abroad acted in this way, who somehow got their hands on the telephone database of Russian scientists. However, some, having received a message from the “high authorities”, obediently followed his orders, and then it turned out that they had transferred secret personal data to complete strangers.

    Somehow, with such a call, the scammers almost caused a heart attack in a 70-year-old academician, who allowed himself to doubt the identity of “Deputy Minister Pyotr Kucherenko.” Allegedly, on behalf of Kucherenko, the scientist received the following phrase in an extremely rude form: “I will come and break your head.” The ministry, of course, immediately issued a warning on its website: do not trust scammers and double-check the information using known phone numbers every time. By coincidence, the real Pyotr Kucherenko died suddenly in May last year, shortly after that scam by scammers…

    Later, scientific workers began to be called more specifically, calling themselves not the minister, but their immediate superior—the head of a department or the director of an institute. This is where scientists began to doubt: how could scammers from abroad know internal information? When we brainstormed, we came to the conclusion that the only place where they were required to transfer the phones of ordinary employees in connection with departments were organizations that collected such data in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic under the pretext of monitoring citizens’ compliance with quarantine using mobile devices.

    The current situation with the program for wiretapping scientists' conversations also suggests that the data of the scientists participating in the conference was leaked from someone who was directly connected with it.

    By the way, according to one of the directors of the institute, there are others schemes that scammers use against scientists under the pretext of their participation in scientific conferences. We are talking about conferences abroad for which an entrance fee is required. It happens that an inexperienced young researcher transfers money (from 500 to 1000 dollars) to dubious organizations that either have no connection at all with the declared scientific organization, or have, but a very distant one.

    If with outright financial fraud everything is more or less clear, but with personal data or wiretapping of phones – not so much: why and who might need this? As Sergei Karelov, an IT consultant and candidate of technical sciences, once explained to MK, personal data that cannot be found on the Internet is usually of interest to cyber fraudsters. They pay dearly for such information, and scammers sell this data to several addresses at once.

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