LAHORE: In the wake of Pulwama terrorism attack that killed 43 Indian law enforcement personnel, the political temperatures between India and Pakistan have been rising.
These rising political tensions have also activated the organized cyber armies in both countries who have been hurling abuses at each other.
In the midst of this, a Pakistani online grocery store also became a target of Indian cyber groups here on Friday, February 22. Around 1000 fake orders were allegedly placed through Careeb’s website using Indian IP addresses resulting in the loss of around Rs.60,000 to it. While the amount may look meager, this could potentially affect the financial cycle of a low profit small startup.
Digital Rights Monitor reached out to the startup’s representative Waqas Khan. According to Mr. Waqas, Careeb offers on-cash delivery grocery items at people’s door steps. To make the order placement simple, anybody could place an order online by mentioning mobile number and home address. However, Mr. Khan alleged that the Indian based groups abused the system and flooded it with fake orders. Initially, the orders’ in-charge did not detect the fake orders. “We could not figure out that they were fake because the cyber groups had researched well and added apparently correct addresses.” He added that since the addresses looked genuine, it was a routine practice to dispatch the delivery team and call the customer when reaching at their doorstep. However, it was when 60 orders were refused in a row that they realized that there was something fishy.
The team sat down and closely studied the orders placed with their system. They soon began to notice a pattern. “When we began to closely study the orders placed, we found abusive language against Pakistan in the comments section of the order placement form. With further research, we found out that the orders were placed from the Indian IP addresses,” shared Waqas.
Waqas and his team further probed this matter and found out that 838 fake orders were placed online through their system, many of them filled with abuses and threats hurled against Pakistan in the comments and the address bars respectively. As fake orders filled with expletives kept pouring in, the startup had to temporarily disable its order placement system. “However, the ambitious ones continue to place fake orders using proxies,” lamented Waqas.
Expressing frustration at this, Waqas pleaded for calm from the cyber groups and urged them not to target the tech startups. “We are a peaceful, non-political startup organisation. We are just trying to make our ground. Our revenue is very limited. We work on a low profit model where we deal with grocery and perishable items. The kind of loss we faced today, adversely affects a company like us.” Waqas said that he did not want to encourage Pakistani cyber groups to target the Indian startups. “I understand that they would also be affected like us. It will eventually hurt both countries’ startup economy. “
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.