How safe is your personal data on Aadhaar? The answer to that question is that The Tribune purchased with a meagre sum of Rs 500 the Aadhaar details of more than 1 billion people in India.
Only last November the UIDAI asserted that “Aadhaar data is fully safe and secure and there has been no data leak or breach at UIDAI.” The Tribune conducted an investigation and purchased a service from anonymous sellers over WhatsApp that gave unrestricted access to everybody’s Aadhaar data.
The Tribune correspondent posed as a buyer and made a payment via PayTm of Rs 500 to an “agent” of the group running the racket in Chandigarh. Then the agent created a “gateway” for this correspondent and gave a login ID and password. After the login and password were given, one could enter any Aadhaar number and the information could be accessed. Details such as address, phone number, age, name, photos, postal code (PIN) and email were all public.
With an additional Rs 300 the agent provided a “software” that could facilitate the printing of Aadhaar cards after entering the Aadhaar number of any individual.
When The Tribune contacted the UIDAI officials in Chandigarh, they expressed shock and admitted that there has been such a huge security breach.
Sanjay Jindal, Additional Director-General, UIDAI Regional Centre, Chandigarh, accepting that this was a lapse and told The Tribune, “Except the Director-General and I, no third person in Punjab should have a login access to our official portal. Anyone else having access is illegal, and is a major national security breach.”
Even though the UIDAI officials in Chandigarh accepted the breach, UIDAI said in a statement, “UIDAI reassures that there has not been any data breach of biometric database which remains fully safe and secure with the highest encryption at UIDAI and mere display of demographic information cannot be misused without biometrics,” The Indian Express reported.
Racket running for over 6 months
The investigation revealed that the racket has been running for over 6 months now. First, anonymous groups were created on WhatsApp. Then they targeted 3 lakh village-level enterprise (VLE) operators hired by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (ME&IT) under the Common Service Centres Scheme (CSCS) across India, offering them access to UIDAI data.
CSCS officials were initially given the task of making Aadhaar cards in India, but later they were withdrawn from the task. Post offices and designated banks were taking care of it. This shift was done to ensure there were no security breaches in Aadhaar.
To make most of the opportunity, almost 1 lakh VLEs decided to still continue making Aadhaar cards for people for a fee.
Time and time again the government has told people that Aadhaar is completely safe and there was no possibility of a security breach. But, this investigation proves that it takes just Rs 500 to prove them wrong.
The Tribune replies to UIDAI’s response
After the article was done by The Tribune, UIDAI reiterated and said the article was misreported. They kept on assuring that the details of Aadhaar were safe and there has been no security breach. The Tribune pointed out the loopholes in UIDAI’s reply. Read the full report here.