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Paytm Mall denies any data breach, claims cybersec firm never contacted them

Paytm Mall, data breach
Credit: Aditi Agrawal

Paytm Mall has denied that its databases have been breached and called Cyble’s report about the hack and subsequent ransom “absolutely false”. In a message to MediaNama, the company’s spokesperson also denied Cyble’s claim that the cybersecurity firm had contacted Paytm Mall informing them about the breach. However, Beenu Arora, the founder and CEO of Cyble, said, “There was some noise about the Paytm Mall breach for some time, but the credible intelligence was received last week only. We reached to Paytm as well and asked for their comments. It’s likely the individual/s may have missed the message – we can’t comment on that.” He further told us that since the disclosure, “Cyble has been in touch with Paytm Group and has provided relevant information for their internal investigations.”

Arora told us that Cyble reached out to Paytm via their social media channels since the company doesn’t have an existing relationship with Paytm. We have asked Arora for the date of contact.

What happened? On Sunday, Cyble, an Atlanta-based cybersecurity firm, alleged that a known cybercrime group, called “John Wick”, used a backdoor in the Paytm Mall website and application to gain unrestricted access to the company’s entire databases. The company alleged that this “potentially affects all accounts and related information at Paytm mall”. Cyble got this information from a former member of the group “John Wick” and this member reportedly claimed that this hack was made possible by an insider in Paytm Mall.

What did “John Wick” want? As per Cyble, “John Wick” demanded 10 ether (ETH), a type of cryptocurrency equivalent to US$4,000, as ransom for the data. At this stage, Cyble wrote, they didn’t know if the ransom had been paid. “John Wick” is the same group that had earlier allegedly breached Zee5 and asked for a “donation” of 10 ETH to help the company fix the bugs. This group had also allegedly acquired booking details (including PAN details) of customers of Square Yards, PAN, Aadhaar and bank details of companies and employees listed with Sumo Payroll, and similar details from Stashfin.

Paytm Mall has denied all claims: A Paytm Mall spokesperson, in a statement to MediaNama, denied the entire report. In response to our questions, the spokesperson said that Cyble did not get in touch with the company informing it about the alleged breach. On Cyble’s claims that this was an insider job and a ransom has been demanded, the spokesperson said, “This news is absolutely false, their has been no conversation and no ransom asked [sic].”

“We would like to assure that all user, as well as company data, is completely safe and secure. We have noted and investigated the claims of a possible hack and data breach, and these are absolutely false. We invest heavily in our data security, as you would expect. We also have a Bug Bounty program, under which we reward responsible disclosure of any security risks. We extensively work with the security research community and safely resolve security anomalies.”
— Paytm Mall spokesperson

The Alibaba and e-Bay backed company had 5.5 million daily active users in 2018 and 80,000 sellers in 2018, but that number has reportedly declined after it cut cashbacks by over 80%. In 2019, the company had discovered a fraud of ₹10 crore related to cashbacks and as a result had fired 10 employees and delisted hundreds of sellers.

***Update (August 31, 2020 2:23 pm): Added that Cyble reached out to Paytm on social media. Originally published on August 31, 2020 at 2:04 pm.

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