PayTM predicament could be a new “Me-Too” in Data Security

The developments regarding the PayTM extortion case is a grave development which has huge ramifications to the Indian corporate sector.

For records, PayTM case came to public light with a complaint filed by Mr Ajay Shekar Sharma, the brother of the PayTM CEO, Mr Vijay Shekhar Sharma, on 22nd October 2018 that an extortion claim has been made on Mr Vijay Shekar Sharma initially for Rs 30 crores and later negotiated down to rs 10 crores by a caller from Kolkata named Rohit Chomol, under the threat that some sensitive personal information is in their possession and the money is demanded in that context.

Following the preliminary investigation, three persons have been arrested and one more accused is to be apprehended. The arrested persons include Mrs Sonia Dhawan, Vice President Communications and Secretary of Mr Vijay Shekar Sharma, her husband Mr Roopak Jain and another employee by name Devendra Kumar.  All the three have been sent to Police remand. A fourth person namely Rohit Chomol who is supposed to have made the phone call for ransom is still to be apprehended.

The advocates of Sonia have claimed that this is a “Cover-up” and Sonia has been framed. They point out that she was a senior employee getting a salary  of Rs 80 lakhs per annum and shares worth Rs 10-15 crores in the Company and it was unthinkable that she would have jeopardized her career by the fraud. Police claim that Sonia’s husband had suffered losses in real estate business and was in need of money.

Mr Vijay Shekar Sharma has hinted that there could be larger conspiracy behind this attempt.

In the meantime, it is not clear what information if at all were stolen by Sonia and whether it was worth Rs 10-30 crores for extortion.

Did it involve PayTm customer data?… Mr Vijay says no…

If as Sonia’s lawyers say that she had stumbled on sensitive information following an investigation entrusted to her by Mr Vijay, they should also explain why was she suspected to betray the trust and  enough to be framed?

Police have seized a laptop and electronic information that could be evidence in the case which are yet to come to light.

Could there be business rivalry and espionage behind the controversy?

The Kolkata Link to the controversy and Mr Vijay Shekar being perceived as close to Mr Modi, the possibility that the stolen information included some communication with the Government agencies also indicate the suspicion that the “Tukde Tukde gang” could be behind a conspiracy to defame the Modi Government. I will not be surprised if the political opponents of Mr Modi jump from Rafeal to PayTm to continue their smear campaigns.

Nothing can be ruled out.

We are seeing an attempt in Bangalore where one actor is being targeted with a Me-Too allegation allegedly because of his BJP leanings. The crooked political brains can do anything to achieve their means and PayTM is a small fry for their designs.

We also have to keep in mind that the Pakistani friends of the political opponents may also have a specific grudge against PayTM because the company provided some details of Stone pelters to the Government recently in Kashmir which would not have gone down well with the sympathizers of the anti national elements. It could be the correspondence between the Government and Company in this regard which Sonia (Not to be confused with another more illustrious political character) could have valued at Rs 30 crores.

Like many other financial crimes, which ever way this is resolved, the immediate reputational and internal de-motivational impact on PayTm is huge enough to be called a “Setback” for the company when it was implementing certain expansion projects.  Possibility of business rivalry fuelling the controversy cannot be ruled out.

We keep our fingers crossed and await further developments as they emerge. But there is no doubt that this incident has the potential to be a new “Me-Too movement in Data Security” where any data breach incident could cause upto 4% of Global turnover of a Company in terms of administrative fines besides the other costs which could virtually kill a company.

It highlights that “Trust” is the most scarce commodity to day in the “Greedy world” and Information Security managers cannot trust even a personal secretary with a Rs 80 lakhs package to keep the secrets. The lack of “Ethics” in our young generation and the general corrupt environment that this society represents indicate that there could be many more such internal trusted employees turning into rogues and first demanding un-justified rewards while in service or under severance pay or resort to such extortion.

The solution for this should start with a revamping of our education system that should inculcate “Moral and Ethical Standards of Life” before teaching them  “Innovative Disruption” and “Ethical Hacking”.

(P.S: More discussions will follow)



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Views expressed here are the personal views of Naavi and does not reflect the views of any organization that he may be associated with.

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