A foreign newspaper sting uncovered a massive security breach in an Indian government Database that contains a billion people’s personal details – the Aadhaar database. But is it true? The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) says it is not.
An international news publication named The Tribune said that during a security sting operation, its reporters were able to access names, email addresses, phone numbers and postal codes by typing in 12-digit unique identification numbers of people in the government’s database, after paying an individual about $8, that is about Rs 500. And by giving extra $5, the newspaper said that they were offered software to print out unique identification cards, called Aadhaar cards, that can be used to access various government services including fuel subsidies and free school meals.
More shockingly, the Tribune report said that this ‘agent’ available on Whatsapp, was a part of group that received access of the Aadhaar Database through former workers who were initially tasked with making the cards. The payment of the money was requested to be done through an e-wallet and after that, any individual’s name, address, postal code, photo, phone number and email could be ‘purchased’ and even Aadhaar card can be printed. Adding fuel to the fire, an American whistleblower Edward Snowden called the recent reports of alleged Aadhaar data breaches “government abuse”.
But, here’s the catchiest catch. The UIDAI responsible for management of Aadhaar biometrics, dismissed reports of full Aadhaar details being made available on payment of Rs 500 by anonymous sellers. UIDAI also said that the system is completely ‘secure’ and any misuse can be traced and action was taken as it maintains a complete log of various functions. So which report to believe in, is really up to every individual – and the database might be secure, but there is still the doubt somewhere in the back of mind that says that the Aadhaar database holding biometrics like fingerprints and iris scans of 1 billion Indians, is vulnerable.