Information Security Practices of Aadhaar – 135 Million Indian government payment card details leaked

Pierluigi Paganini May 03, 2017

A CIS study estimated number of Aadhaar numbers leaked through 4 gov portals could be around 135 million and 100M bank account numbers.

The Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric ID system, with over 1.123 billion enrolled members as of 28 February 2017.

The role of the system is crucial for both authenticating and authorizing transactions and is a pillar of the Indian UID (unique identification database).

Every problem with a similar system represents a disaster as explained in a report recently published by the Indian Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) titled “Information Security Practices of Aadhaar (or lack thereof): A documentation of public availability of Aadhaar Numbers with sensitive personal financial information

The report highlighted the high security implemented by the Aahdaar itself, rather warn of possible data leaks caused by other government agencies accessing the system.

The research paper focus on four government-operated projects: Andhra Pradesh’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme; Chandranna Bima; the National Social Assistance Program; and an Andhra Pradesh portal of Daily “Online Payment Reports under NREGA” maintained by the National Informatics Centre.

Aadhaar system

The CIS examined numerous databases used by government offices, many of which included “numerous instances” of Aadhaar Numbers, associated with personal information.

“Actually, Aadhaar has a very strong privacy regulation built into it… But the area we are working on is enforcement,” Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Union Electronics and Information Technology Ministry, told The Hindu.

“People are not aware that so a large number of government agencies are making available all this sensitive data. So now, the process is to educate them so that they become aware that Aadhaar data is not meant to be published like this freely,” 

According to the report, 135 million Aadhaar numbers and 100 million bank account numbers could have leaked from official portals dealing with government programs of pensions and rural employment.

The leaks represent a significant and “potentially irreversible privacy harm”, they potentially expose citizens to numerous illegal purposes.

Sundararajan confirmed that security and privacy issued will be addressed in the legislative amendments to the country’s IT legislation.

 “Other major schemes, who have also used Aadhaar for direct benefit transfer [DBT] could have leaked PII similarly due to lack of information security practices. Over 23 crore beneficiaries have been brought under Aadhaar programme for DBT and if a significant number of schemes have mishandled data in a similar way, we could be looking at a data leak closer to that number,” concluded the report.  

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – India, data leak)

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