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Current Affairs 01 August 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Akira Ransomware
  2. Child Labour
  3. Corporate Debt Market Development Fund
  4. Seagrass Meadows
  5. TransLunar Injection (TLI)
  6. Voyager 2 Spacecraft
  7. National Digital Nagrik Forum

Akira Ransomware


Context:

Recently, the Computer Emergency Response Team of India issued an alert for ransomware dubbed Akira.

Relevance:

GS III: Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Akira Ransomware:
  2. What is ransomware?
  3. What is Cyber Attack and Cyber Security?
  4. What are other similar types of Cyber Attacks?

Akira Ransomware

  • Akira Ransomware is a malicious software designed to encrypt data on targeted devices, leaving them inaccessible to users.
  •  It appends the “.akira” extension to the filenames of all encrypted files, giving it its name.
  • The ransomware also creates a ransom note and deletes Windows Shadow Volume copies to hinder data recovery.
Working Mechanism:
  • The ransomware closes processes and Windows services that could prevent it from encrypting files.
  • It exploits VPN services, especially when users haven’t enabled two-factor authentication, to deliver malicious files.
  • The ransomware uses the Windows Restart Manager API to terminate active Windows services, ensuring smooth encryption.
  • It avoids encrypting crucial system folders like Program Data, Recycle Bin, Boot, and System Volume information to maintain system stability.
  • Certain Windows system files with extensions like “.syn,” “.msl,” and “.exe” are also left unmodified.
  • Once data is encrypted and stolen, Akira leaves a ransom note named “akira_readme.txt,” providing information about the attack and a link to the negotiation site.
  • Each victim receives a unique negotiation password to communicate with the ransomware gang through the threat actor’s Tor site.
  • Unlike typical ransomware operations, Akira’s negotiation site employs a chat system, allowing direct communication with the ransomware gang.

What is ransomware?

  • Ransomware is a type of malicious software, used by cyber criminals, to infect a computer system by blocking access to the stored data by encrypting the files.
  • A ransom is then demanded from the owner in exchange for the decryption key.
  • While it is not yet clear as to how exactly the AIIMS computer systems were targeted, the malware may usually be injected remotely by tricking the user into downloading it upon clicking an ostensibly safe web link sent via email or other means, including hacking.
  • It can spread throughout the network by exploiting existing vulnerabilities. Ransomware attacks can also be accompanied by theft of sensitive data for other sinister motives.

What is Cyber Attack and Cyber Security?

  • Cyber attack is an assault launched by cybercriminals using one or more computers against a single or multiple computers or networks. A Cyber Attack can maliciously disable computers, steal data, or use a breached computer as a launch point for other attacks. Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to launch a Cyber Attack, including malware, phishing, ransomware, denial of service, among other methods.
  • Cybersecurity means securing the cyberspace from attack, damage, misuse and economic espionage. Cyberspace is a global domain within the information environment consisting of interdependent IT infrastructure such as Internet, Telecom networks, computer systems etc.

What are other similar types of Cyber Attacks?

  • Viruses which are the most commonly-known form of malware and potentially the most destructive. They can do anything from erasing the data on your computer to hijacking your computer to attack other systems, send spam, or host and share illegal content.
  • Worm is a type of malware that spreads copies of itself from computer to computer which can replicate itself without any human interaction, and it does not need to attach itself to a software program in order to cause damage.
  • Trojan is a type of malware that is often disguised as legitimate software which can be employed by cyber-thieves and hackers trying to gain access to users’ systems.
  • Spyware collects your personal information and passes it on to interested third parties without your knowledge or consent. Spyware is also known for installing Trojan viruses.
  • Adware displays pop-up advertisements when you are online.
  • Fake security software poses as legitimate software to trick you into opening your system to further infection, providing personal information, or paying for unnecessary or even damaging “clean ups”.
  • Browser hijacking software changes your browser settings (such as your home page and toolbars), displays pop-up ads and creates new desktop shortcuts. It can also relay your personal preferences to interested third parties.

Which agencies in India deal with cyber-attacks?

  • Set up in 2004, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) is the national nodal agency that collects, analyses and circulates inputs on cyber-attacks; issues guidelines, advisories for preventive measures, forecasts and issues alerts; and takes measures to handle any significant cyber security event.
  • It also imparts training to computer system managers.
  • The National Cyber Security Coordinator, under the National Security Council Secretariat, coordinates with different agencies at the national level on cybersecurity issues, while the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre has been set up for the protection of national critical information infrastructure.
  • According to the government, the Cyber Swachhta Kendra (Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) has been launched for detection of malicious software programmes and to provide free tools to remove the same, while the National Cyber Coordination Centre works on creating awareness about existing and potential threats.

-Source: The Hindu


Child Labour


Context:

Recently, an incident came into light where a couple was accused of hiring a 10-year-old girl as a stay-at-home help to care for their 4-year-old son and was subjected to physical and mental abuse on several occasions.

Relevance:

GS II: Issues Related to Children

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Child Labour: Exploring Child Domestic Work and its Hazards in India
  2. Factors Contributing to Child Labor in Domestic Work in India
  3. Socio-Economic Impact of Child Labour

Child Labor: Exploring Child Domestic Work and its Hazards in India

Child Domestic Labour:
  • Child domestic work refers to children’s involvement in domestic tasks within the home of a third party or employer.
  • It includes situations where children perform domestic work below the relevant minimum age, engage in hazardous conditions, or experience slavery-like situations.
Risks Associated with Child Domestic Work
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) has identified several hazards specific to domestic workers, which also affect children engaged in domestic service.
  • Common risks faced by child domestic workers include long and exhausting working hours, exposure to toxic chemicals, carrying heavy loads, handling dangerous items like knives and hot pans, and inadequate food and accommodation.
  • The risks are exacerbated when the child lives in the household where they work, leading to further exploitation.
Child Labor Situation in India:
  • As per the National Crime Records Bureau Report 2022, approximately 982 cases of child labor were registered under the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, in 2021.
  • The states with the highest number of registered cases were Telangana, followed by Assam.
  • A study by Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL) revealed a significant increase in the proportion of working children from 28.2% to 79.6% among 818 surveyed children.
  • The rise in child labor was attributed to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of schools.
  • The states with the highest number of child labor employers are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
Addressing Child Labor:
  • The prevalence of child labor remains a pressing issue in India, demanding immediate attention and effective measures to protect the rights and well-being of vulnerable children.

Factors Contributing to Child Labor in Domestic Work in India:

  • Economic and Social Conditions: Families facing financial difficulties often rely on child labor as a means to supplement family income.
  • Insufficient Policies and Wages: Lack of effective policies ensuring sufficient wages for adult workers may result in children being paid even less, compelling them to work in domestic settings.
  • Systematic Exploitation: Children from impoverished households may be forced to work beyond their physical and mental capacity, leading to a cycle of slavery in 24×7 house help employment.
  • Traditional Beliefs: Certain communities and families have a tradition of involving children in specific occupations, like agriculture, carpet weaving, or domestic service, while deeming education unnecessary, especially for girls.
  • Migration and Vulnerability: Tribals and Dalits migrating to urban areas from poorer regions become vulnerable to exploitation and are easy targets for child labor in domestic work.
  • Lack of Access to Quality Education: Many schools in India lack proper facilities, teachers, and quality education, leading parents to discourage their children from attending school or causing them to drop out.
  • Natural Disasters and Conflicts: Events like natural disasters, conflicts, and pandemics can disrupt society, making children more vulnerable to exploitation as they lose their homes and access to basic services.

Socio-Economic Impact of Child Labour:

  • Impaired Human Capital: Child labor prevents children from acquiring essential skills and knowledge, leading to diminished future productivity and earning potential.
  • Suppressed Wages: The presence of child labor in the workforce lowers wages for unskilled work, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and encouraging continued child labor.
  • Stifled Innovation: Child labor hampers the development of a skilled and educated workforce, hindering technological advancements and innovations that contribute to long-term economic growth.
  • Denial of Rights: Child labor deprives children of their fundamental rights to education, health, protection, and participation, limiting their opportunities and social mobility.
  • Weakened Social Fabric: The prevalence of child labor weakens social development and cohesion within a country, impacting stability and democratic values.
  • Adverse Health and Well-being: Child labor exposes children to hazardous conditions, physical injuries, diseases, abuse, and exploitation, leading to adverse effects on their physical and mental well-being, mortality rates, and life expectancy.

-Source: The Hindu


Corporate Debt Market Development Fund


Context:

The Indian government has approved the Guarantee Scheme for Corporate Debt (GSCD) to offer a guarantee cover for the debt raised by the Corporate Debt Market Development Fund (CDMDF). The CDMDF’s objective is to stabilize the corporate bond market during periods of stress. SEBI has issued guidelines for the functioning and management of the scheme and the fund.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Guarantee Scheme for Corporate Debt
  2. Corporate Debt Market Development Fund
  3. Key SEBI Guidelines for CDMDF

Guarantee Scheme for Corporate Debt

The Guarantee Scheme for Corporate Debt (GSCD) is a program that offers a comprehensive guarantee cover for debt raised by the Corporate Debt Market Development Fund (CDMDF).

Key Points about GSCD:
  • Objective: The primary aim of GSCD is to boost investor confidence and bring stability to the corporate debt market.
  • Management: GSCD is managed by the Guarantee Fund for Corporate Debt (GFCD), which is a trust fund created by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and overseen by the National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Ltd. This company operates under the Ministry of Finance’s Department of Financial Services.
  • Support during Market Dislocation: The scheme is designed to support the purchase of investment-grade corporate debt securities by the CDMDF during times of market dislocation.
  • Investment-Grade Corporate Debt: Investment-grade corporate debt securities refer to bonds or notes issued by companies that have a low risk of default and possess a good credit rating.
  • Risk Protection: The guarantee cover provided by GSCD ensures that investors are protected from potential risks associated with investing in investment-grade corporate debt securities.
  • Enhancing Market Liquidity: With the ability to purchase guaranteed securities under GSCD, the CDMDF contributes to enhancing liquidity in the secondary market and thereby supports the overall stability of the corporate debt market.

Corporate Debt Market Development Fund

The Corporate Debt Market Development Fund (CDMDF) is an alternative investment fund created to cater to the requirements of the corporate debt market in India. It operates as a close-ended scheme, meaning that it has a fixed term and cannot issue new units once it is launched.

Key Features of CDMDF:
  • Backstop Facility: The primary purpose of CDMDF is to serve as a backstop facility for investment-grade corporate debt securities. It provides a safety net for investors during market dislocation, offering stability and enhancing investor confidence in the market.
  • Funding Structure: CDMDF has a total backstop facility of Rs. 33,000 crore, specifically established for Mutual Funds. The government contributes Rs. 30,000 crore to the fund, and the Asset Management Companies (AMCs) contribute the remaining Rs. 3,000 crore.
  • Enhancing Secondary Market Liquidity: CDMDF aims to enhance liquidity in the secondary market by establishing a permanent institutional framework that can be activated during periods of market stress.
  • Market Stability: During times of market turmoil or instability, CDMDF steps in to provide support and stability to the corporate debt market. This helps in mitigating the impact of adverse market conditions on investors and promotes smoother market operations.

Key SEBI Guidelines for CDMDF:

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has formulated specific guidelines for the operation and functioning of the Corporate Debt Market Development Fund (CDMDF). These guidelines ensure transparency, market stability, and investor protection while enabling CDMDF to serve as a backstop facility for the corporate debt market.

Key SEBI Guidelines for CDMDF:

Investment Focus:

  • During normal market conditions, CDMDF primarily invests in low-duration government securities (G-sec), treasury bills, and guaranteed corporate bond repo with a maturity not exceeding seven days.

Market Dislocation:

  • When the market experiences dislocation, CDMDF steps in to purchase investment-grade corporate debt securities, providing a safety net for investors.

Trading on RFQ Platform:

  • Corporate debt securities sold by mutual fund schemes to CDMDF during market dislocation will be treated as trades executed on the Request for Quote (RFQ) platform.

Authorized Purchase:

  • CDMDF is authorized to purchase only listed corporate debt securities with a residual maturity of up to five years. It refrains from acquiring unlisted, below-investment-grade, or defaulted debt securities.
  • Securities with a material possibility of default or adverse credit news or views are also excluded.

Fair Pricing:

  • CDMDF buys securities at a fair price, considering liquidity risk, interest rate risk, and credit risk to ensure transparency and market stability. Buying or trading is done at a fair price and not at distress price.
  • Selling of securities is done at breakeven or for profit as the market stabilizes, aiming to reduce borrowing as soon as possible.

Subscription and Contribution:

  • Units of CDMDF are subscribed by Asset Management Companies (AMCs) of mutual funds and specified debt-oriented mutual fund schemes.
  • AMCs of specified debt-oriented mutual fund schemes make a one-time contribution equivalent to two basis points (bps) of their assets under management (AUM) to support the functioning of CDMDF.

Tenure and Extension:

  • CDMDF is launched as a closed-ended scheme with an initial tenure of 15 years. The possibility of extension lies at the discretion of the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) in consultation with SEBI.

-Source: Indian Express


Seagrass Meadows


Context:

Scuba divers in Northern Germany are extracting seagrass shoots to replant in barren areas, aiming to combat climate change and revive these ocean carbon sinks.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Seagrass Meadows
  2. Concern: Decline of Seagrass Habitats
  3. Seagrasses in India
  4. Restoration Efforts

About Seagrass Meadows:

  • Seagrass meadows are underwater carpets formed by flowering plants thriving in shallow coastal waters.
  • They require sunlight for photosynthesis and grow in sandy or muddy substrates.
Significance of Seagrass Meadows:
  • Carbon Sequestration: Despite covering only 0.1% of the ocean floor, they are efficient carbon sinks, storing up to 18% of oceanic carbon, aiding in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating global warming.
  • Water Quality Improvement: Seagrass meadows filter pollutants, trap sediments, and prevent erosion, leading to improved water clarity and quality, benefiting marine life and human activities like fishing, tourism, and recreation.
  • Biodiversity and Habitat: These ecosystems support a wide range of marine animals, including fish, turtles, dugongs, crabs, and seahorses, serving as essential habitats and food sources.
  • Coastal Protection: Acting as natural barriers, they protect coastlines from erosion caused by waves and tidal currents.

Concern: Decline of Seagrass Habitats

Report Findings:

  • The “Out of the Blue: The Value of Seagrasses to the Environment and to People” report by UNEP highlights that approximately 7% of seagrass habitat is lost globally each year.
  • Over the past century, nearly 30% of seagrass area worldwide has been lost, indicating a significant decline.
Causes of Seagrass Loss:
  • Construction Impact: The development of ports and marinas can lead to the destruction of seagrass habitats or reduce the amount of sunlight available to them, hindering their growth.
  • Runoff Effects: Nutrient, chemical, and sediment runoff from agriculture, industry, and urban areas can cause eutrophication, algal blooms, and turbidity, suffocating or shading seagrass plants.
  • Climate Stressors: Rising sea temperatures, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events can stress or damage seagrass, altering their distribution and growth patterns.

Seagrasses in India:

  • In India, significant seagrass beds are found along the coastlines of the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay regions on the east coast.
  • The west coast hosts seagrass beds in the Gulf of Kachchh region.
  • In addition, seagrass meadows can be found in the lagoons of islands in Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

Restoration Efforts:

  • Seagrass restoration initiatives have been undertaken in various regions globally to conserve and revive seagrass habitats.
  • Notable efforts include restoration projects in the Baltic Sea (Germany), Chesapeake Bay (USA), and the Gulf of Mannar (India).

-Source: The Hindu


TransLunar Injection (TLI)


Context:

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently performed the TransLunar Injection (TLI) to slingshot Chandrayaan-3 towards the moon.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. TransLunar Injection (TLI): A Critical Step in Lunar Missions
  2. The Process of TLI
  3. Trajectory After TLI

TransLunar Injection (TLI): A Critical Step in Lunar Missions

  • TransLunar Injection (TLI) is a crucial manoeuvre in space missions that enables spacecraft to travel from Earth’s orbit to a trajectory that will take them to the Moon.
  • It is a key step in lunar missions, allowing spacecraft to escape Earth’s gravitational pull and set out on their journey toward the Moon.
  • The TLI is performed when the spacecraft is at the closest point to Earth, known as the perigee.
The Process of TLI:
  • During the TLI, the spacecraft’s propulsion system fires its engines to accelerate the spacecraft.
  • The spacecraft gains sufficient speed to break free from Earth’s gravitational pull, propelling it towards the Moon.
  • The thrust and duration of the TLI burn depend on factors like the spacecraft’s mass, velocity in Earth’s orbit, and mission objectives.
Trajectory After TLI:
  • After a successful TLI, the spacecraft is placed on a lunar trajectory, continuing its journey to the Moon without further propulsion from Earth.
  • The spacecraft enters a transfer orbit, an elliptical path intersecting with the Moon’s orbit.
  • It continues to travel in this highly eccentric orbit until it reaches the Moon’s surface.
  • As the spacecraft approaches the Moon, additional manoeuvres like lunar orbit insertion (LOI) may be performed to enter lunar orbit or land on the lunar surface, based on mission goals.
Success of TLI in Lunar Missions:
  • TLI has been successfully performed in various lunar missions, including the Apollo missions, the Chang’e missions, and the Artemis missions.

-Source: The Hindu


Voyager 2 Spacecraft


Context:

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, currently in interstellar space, is facing communication difficulties caused by an antenna misalignment.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Voyager 2 Spacecraft
  2. Interstellar Space

About Voyager 2 Spacecraft:

  • Launch: Voyager 2 was launched by NASA on August 20, 1977, as part of the Voyager program, alongside Voyager 1.
  • Mission: Its primary mission was to study the outer planets of our solar system and their moons before embarking on an interstellar mission.
  • Interstellar Space: On December 10, 2018, Voyager 2 became the second spacecraft to enter interstellar space, following its twin Voyager 1.
  • Golden Record: Voyager 2 carries a Golden Record, a phonograph record containing sounds and images from Earth, intended as a message to potential extraterrestrial civilizations.
Firsts:
  • Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have closely studied all four of the solar system’s giant planets.
  • It discovered a 14th moon at Jupiter and found 10 new moons and two new rings at Uranus.
  • Voyager 2 was the first human-made object to fly by Uranus and Neptune.
  • At Neptune, it discovered five moons, four rings, and a feature known as the “Great Dark Spot.”

Interstellar Space:

  • Definition: Interstellar space, also referred to as the interstellar medium or interstellar void, is the immense expanse of space that exists between stars within a galaxy.
  • Characteristics: It is a region where the gravitational and magnetic fields of individual stars have minimal influence, creating a space devoid of significant celestial bodies.
  • Composition: Interstellar space mainly consists of very low-density gas, dust particles, cosmic rays (high-energy particles from outer space), and magnetic fields.

-Source: Hindustan Times


National Digital Nagrik Forum


Context:

Recently, The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) announced the creation of a National Digital Nagrik Forum.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Digital Nagrik Forum
  2. Objectives

National Digital Nagrik Forum:

  • The National Digital Nagrik Forum is an online platform with the primary objective of advancing the rights of traders, consumers, and other sections of society in the digital trade economy.
  • It aims to shape policy discussions to contribute to the Indian government’s vision of creating a trillion-dollar digital economy while maintaining an open, safe, trusted, and accountable internet ecosystem.
  • The forum seeks to achieve its goals through various activities, including awareness camps, dialogues, and training sessions for stakeholders from government, private sector, and civil society.

Objectives:

  • Advancing Digital Trade Economy: The forum aims to contribute to the government’s vision of creating a trillion-dollar digital economy in India.
  • Consumer Protection and Online Safety: One of the core themes is to focus on efficient grievance redressal and ensure consumer protection and online safety.
  • Fighting Digital Cartelisation: The forum aims to discourage discriminatory and anti-competitive practices in the online world and promote a level-playing field.
  • Harnessing Indian Digital Technologies: It explores the potential of Indian digital technologies to transform retail and industrial trade, generate employment, and attract investments.
  • Taxation Policy: The forum advocates for a first principles-based taxation policy that encourages certainty and productivity while preventing illegal activities like tax evasion and money laundering.
  • Impact of Emerging Technologies: The forum studies emerging technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence to assess their impact on retail trade and safeguard consumers’ interests.

-Source: Indian Express


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