India’s top court bans firecracker sales before Diwali

This file photo shows Indian children lighting fireworks for the Diwali festival in New Delhi on October 27, 2011. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 09 October 2017

India’s top court bans firecracker sales before Diwali

NEW DELHI: India’s top court ordered a temporary ban on the sale of firecrackers in New Delhi on Monday, ahead of the Diwali festival that leaves the city shrouded in toxic smog.
The decision comes a little over a week before Diwali — the Hindu festival of lights — when Delhi fills with acrid smoke from celebratory firecrackers set off day and night.
The onset of winter usually worsens the situation as cooler temperatures trap the pollutants, exacerbated by crop burning in neighboring states.
Acting on a petition, the Supreme Court directed that all licenses to sell firecrackers in New Delhi and neighboring cities be suspended until October 31.
“The court has made it clear that all licenses stand banned forthwith,” Haripriya Padmanabhan, one of the petitioners, told NDTV news network after the order.
India’s notoriously poor air quality causes over 1 million premature deaths every year, according to a joint report by two US-based health research institutes earlier this year.
A 2014 World Health Organization survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted.
At midday Monday, the US embassy showed the concentration of PM2.5 — the fine particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease — at an “unhealthy” level.
The top court had imposed a similar ban last November when Delhi’s air quality reached “hazardous” levels after Diwali, forcing schools to shut and a temporary ban on construction.
But the November order was briefly lifted last month, allowing residents to buy firecrackers ahead of Diwali, which falls on October 19 this year.
“I guess those people will end up bursting them, so it’s not a 100 percent victory,” Padmanabhan said.


Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

Updated 38 min 6 sec ago

Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

  • Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions
  • There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware

LYON: Global police body Interpol warned Monday of an “alarming” rate of cybercrime during the coronavirus pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of people working from home to target major institutions.
An assessment by the Lyon-based organization found a “significant target shift” by criminals from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.
“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19,” said Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock.
“The increased online dependency for people around the world is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyberdefenses are up to date,” he added.
The report said cybercriminals were sending COVID-19 themed phishing emails — which seek to obtain confidential data from users — often impersonating government and health authorities.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions, it added.
In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a rise in ramsomware attacks, in which users have to pay money to get their computer to work again.
There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware, said Interpol.
From January to April, some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to malware and 48,000 malicious URLs — all related to COVID-19 were detected by one of Interpol’s private sector partners, it said.
The agency warned the trend was set to continue and a “further increase in cybercrime is highly likely in the near future.”
“Vulnerabilities related to working from home and the potential for increased financial benefit will see cybercriminals continue to ramp up their activities and develop more advanced and sophisticated” methods, it said.
Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Interpol said, “it is highly probable that there will be another spike in phishing related to these medical products as well as network intrusion and cyberattacks to steal data.”