Asia-Pacific, India, Science & Tech

Aadhaar Number: Is India’s Biometrics ID System Safe?

Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani brought the idea of a twelve-digit unique identity biometric number, the Aadhaar number, into existence in India, with the idea of making a difference in the lives of about 119,22,59,062 people. The idea was to make sure these people were delivered with the benefits and subsidies provided by the Government of India directly, without any mediators cashing in on them.

Once the benefits started pouring in, banks, telecom companies, insurance companies and other corporates decided to take advantage of this unique twelve-digit number in order to make sure the identities of the people are real. This move was taken by the corporate world to ensure there was no fraud or duplicity. However, this also leads to today’s prime question.

Aadhaar Number: Are we Indians really Safe?

The database for Unique Identification numbers began expanding under the watchful eyes of Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India. The database expanded its functions to not just being a benefit monger, but an authentication tool. Today, the prime function this twelve-digit Aadhaar number is primarily to keep a check on the authenticity of other databases in the country. Telecom companies, banks, insurance companies, almost everyone is using the Aadhaar number in a coercive manner, making people link their details to their databases in order to get their corporate services. This move, taken by almost every corporate in India, has brought in a sense of vulnerability among the population of the country.

However, if you think that your unique Aadhaar number, along with your personal details, is safely in the hands of the official authorities only and cannot be accessed by “hackers”, think again!

India Biometrics ID System: Chaos Ensues!

There have been multiple cases wherein the data of 1.19 billion people of India has been in a vulnerable spot. It has been open to the public at large; people like you and me! The official Aadhaar database, held by the state-run Unique Identification Authority of India, can be easily accessed by anyone, without any credentials. You can access the data, become an admin, leak sensitive information, or you could choose anyone in the world to act as an admin of the entire database portal! Imagine your name, your mobile number, your home address, and other details in the hands of anyone who so pleases! Imagine having access to the lives of 119,22,59,062 people!

How Can This Be?

To answer your question, let’s take three people to understand this better!

Person A has been provided access to the official Aadhaar portal by the state-run UIDAI for carrying out certain legitimate functions. Sounds good until now, right? Be ready to be bamboozled! This person A can easily appoint any other person, let’s say B, as an admin to the same official portal. This gives B access to the portal and to the lives of 1.19 billion citizens of India.

So yeah! A can basically “distribute” this very secure and protected information to anyone. All he needs to do is to enter the email credentials of another person, and this new person (B in this example) now has access to all the data. There are high chances that this person, B, could provide his friend, C, with a similar opportunity. C could do it too, to D, and the list goes on!

What is Going Wrong with the Aadhaar System?

The fact that such a secure information portal, held by the Government, has the capability of allowing any official admin to add other new admins without having to think twice, is enough to conclude that there is some form of misuse! Yes, it has already been misused!

Official admins have provided other new admins with access to the portal in exchange for money. Currently the market rate for being granted access to this secure and official information relating to the lives of about 1.19 billion people costs from around 500 INR to almost 6,000 INR, which could go way up in certain other important cases.

Once you are an admin to the portal, not only can you access the information of other Aadhaar holders, but also alter and misuse the information to gain advantage and leverage over the person. All you would have to do is to input the twelve-digit number of practically anyone across the nation. The details of the person would pop up on your screen immediately.

India’s leading daily The Tribune was one of the first to point out that something was going entirely wrong with the so-called Biometric ID system of India. However, this was ridiculed by the Narendra Modi led BJP Government for being fake news.

Let’s come back to the point of concern!

Are we Indians Safe?

Nobody is safe, to be honest! Mathematics is the key to answer your questions!

Ever heard of permutations and combinations? Apply them here!

Hackers today have access to computer programs which run a bunch of numbers in accordance with different permutations, supplying them with data of almost everyone in the nation. So, if you think your data is safe, that your personal information is not in a vulnerable position simply because the “admins” do not have your twelve-digit Aadhaar number, you are wrong!

Your photograph, along with your personal details (your phone number, your address, your bank account details) everything could easily land in the hands of anyone! Any unauthorized person could access your information in under 10 minutes for 500 INR. He would just require certain credentials and he is good to go!

Your data could be sold for a small amount of money, rendering your life unsafe!

The Aadhaar Blame Game!

Back in 2014, when Narendra Modi was meeting and discussing political issues with the then Prime Minister of the country and other officials of the reigning Government, Aadhaar information portal was said to be just another political gimmick by the ruling party! Once he came out of the meeting, Narendra Modi even went out to tweet this tweet:

“On Aadhaar, neither the Team that I met nor PM could answer my Qs on security threat it can pose. There is no vision, only political gimmick”.

The tables are turned now though. On the blaming side, we have the Opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC), while the blame takers are Narendra Modi and associates!

But should the lives of 1.19 billion people really be taken into a political debate?

The whole political blame game and buck-passing is a dirty way to conceal the fact that our lives are at stake! The Aadhaar information portal is anything but safe.

There have been recently reported cases of people buying new mobile network connections in the name of unknown people, with the help of their twelve-digit Aadhaar number. Similar scenarios have been seen in cases of bank dealings. A man in Jalandhar was recently held accountable for withdrawing money from a completely random bank account with the help of a fake Aadhaar ID.

Adhaar: The Current Situation

Currently, the Modi led BJP Government is aggressively pushing people to “voluntarily” link their Aadhaar numbers to other services across the country. This compliance is said to be “voluntarily”, but actually somewhat mandatory. Mobile numbers and bank accounts are to be mandatorily linked to the twelve-digit number. In fact, any major or minor service in any part of the country requires your twelve-digit Aadhaar number. This is, as we said, is posing a serious threat to the security of billions of people.

The challenges don’t seem to be a cause of worry to the current Government. What is even more surprising is that India does not have official privacy laws in the concerned matter so far! The State is said to be working on it!

This coercion has taken its form as a security breach of the lives of 1.19 billion people, a case against it is still pending in the Apex court of the country. Aadhaar was supposed to be a feather in the cap of the largest democracy in the world – India. However, it has been reduced to nothing but a mere risk.

About Saumya Khanduja

A cat lover, a book lover, and a beach lover: Saumya is all shades of being human. A sociology graduate from India, who spends most of her time writing. Outside the realm of the web, she loves cooking, sketching, and listening to the cello. A Game Of Thrones enthusiast, she might be small, but can "slay" you!

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