Fake COVID-19 Vaccine Registration SMS Message in Circulation, Aims to Install Malicious App

A fake SMS message is in circulation that falsely claims to offer an app to let users register for COVID-19 vaccine in India. However, instead of providing a legitimate way to register for the vaccination, the app is aimed at propagating malware via SMS messages once it is installed on a mobile device. The malicious app was initially named COVID-19, though it later received an update that renamed it as Vaccine Register. Attackers may be able to convince users to install the app as a large number of people faced issues while registering for the COVID-19 vaccine through the official CoWIN portal.

Cybersecurity firm ESET’s malware researcher Lukas Stefanko has tweeted about the SMS message that asks users to download the app to register for the COVID-19 vaccination. The message is targeted at Indian users and is designed in a way that impersonates ‘COVID-19 vaccine free registration’, according to the researcher.

 

The researcher said that the SMS message, however, carries a link that installs a worm app, which essentially spreads itself via SMS to victims’ contacts with the link to download the malware. The app also gains unnecessary permissions that attackers could leverage to acquire user data.

Although the app was initially called COVID-19, it was renamed to Vaccine Register and received a light mode to reach even further devices over time. It is also found to have support for dual-SIM connectivity. This will allow the malware to propagate using the first available operator available on the device.

Users are highly recommended to avoid to any SMS messages that contain links asking them to download apps. It is also important to note that registrations for COVID-19 vaccines are currently taking place only through the CoWIN portal as well as the Aarogya Setu and Umang apps.

However, there are third-party sites through which you can receive notifications when a slot for the jab is available. The government has also provided the option to find your nearby COVID-19 vaccination centre using the MyGov Corona Helpdesk chatbot.

The government expanded the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country last week by starting registrations from people between 18–44 years. The vaccine registrations were earlier open for the people of 45 years and above age.


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Jagmeet Singh writes about consumer technology for Gadgets 360, out of New Delhi. Jagmeet is a senior reporter for Gadgets 360, and has frequently written about apps, computer security, Internet services, and telecom developments. Jagmeet is available on Twitter at @JagmeetS13 or Email at jagmeets@ndtv.com. Please send in your leads and tips.
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COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Goes Live in India for People Aged 18-44 Years: How to Register

COVID-19 vaccine registration in India for people aged between 18 and 44 years will go live from 4pm today (Wednesday, April 28). This will be the phase 3 of the vaccination drive in India that will expand the existing criteria of vaccinating people aged 45 and above. Registration for the COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory and it requires eligible people to have a valid Indian identity proof such as a PAN card or other government ID. India last reported over 350,000 cases in a day, the highest in the world.

The government will kick off the registration process for the people aged between 18 and 44 years at 4pm through the CoWIN portal, as well as the Aarogya Setu and Umang apps, the official MyGovIndia account tweeted on Wednesday. The registration was initially announced to go live from midnight (12am), but it was postponed to 4pm. At the time of writing, the official Aarogya Setu account tweeted that although registration for the CoWIN portal is now open, scheduling vaccination sessions is to be set up by the state governments and private vaccination centres, so it might take a little more time before you can actually make an appointment.

Following the registration, the vaccination drive for all the eligible people will begin from May 1. It will, however, be subject to the availability of the vaccines. Appointments at state government centres and private centres will depend on how many vaccination centres are ready on May 1 for vaccination of the people aged above 18, the MyGovIndia account tweeted.

How to register for the COVID-19 vaccine?

Online registration for COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for people aged between 18 and 44 years, according to the FAQ section on the CoWIN portal. This means that unlike the people aged 45 years and above, people between the ages of 18 and 44 years are not likely to be eligible for an on-spot registration (walk-in appointment).

You need to have a mobile number to register for the COVID-19 vaccination online. The government also requires a valid Indian ID proof. This can be your Aadhaar card, driving licence, PAN card, passport, pension passbook, NPR smart card, or voter ID card (e-elector photo identity card). As mentioned, you can register on the CoWIN portal, or through Aarogya Setu or Umang app.

Steps to register for COVID-19 vaccination through CoWIN portal

Once COVID-19 vaccine registration for people aged 18-44 years begins, eligible citizens will be able to register for an appointment online. Here’s how you can do that.

  1. Type your mobile number and hit the Get OTP button. A one-time password (OTP) will reach your phone.

  2. Enter the OTP you have received on your phone and click Verify.

  3. Now, enter details such as your name, gender, and year of birth. Click on Register.

  4. Click on Schedule next to the name of the person registered to book the appointment for the vaccination.

  5. Enter your pin code and click Search. You will see the centres available for your pin code.

  6. You can also search for a vaccine centre by selecting your state and district.

  7. Select the centre and date and time for the vaccination, and hit Confirm.

You can add up to four family members through one registration. However, it is important to point out that if one person aged 45 years or above and others aged between 18 and 44 years want to schedule a combined appointment, then only private paid vaccination centres or vaccination centres as per state government’s policy will be made available.

Steps to register for COVID-19 vaccine via Aarogya Setu app

If you do not want to use the CoWIN portal via a Web browser, you can use the Aarogya Setu app on your phone to register for the COVID-19 vaccine. Below are the steps that you can follow to register using the app.

  1. Open the Aarogya Setu app.
  2. Go to the CoWIN tab from the home screen.
  3. Select Vaccination Registration and enter your phone number to get an OTP.
  4. Tap Verify. You will be directed to the Registration of Vaccination page.
  5. Now follow the same steps as mentioned above for registering through the CoWIN portal.

The vaccination drive currently includes two COVID-19 vaccines, namely Covaxin that has been developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and Covishield that has been developed by the Oxford-AstraZeneca and is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).


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