In a time when our lives are becoming more digital, the safety of our personal information is important. But what happens when this safety is compromised? A recent incident in India has brought this fear to life. A massive amount of personal data collected during the COVID-19 testing has found its way to the dark web, affecting 81.5 crore Indian citizens.
The Hacker’s Reveal
A hacker, known by the screen name ‘pwn0001,’ revealed a massive data leak on the dark web. The data belonged to 81.5 crore Indians and included sensitive details. The leaked data included details including Aadhaar and passport information, names, phone numbers, and both temporary and permanent addresses of the affected individuals. This data leak might be the biggest India has ever seen. The data comes from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), collected during the COVID-19 testing phase.
How Was This Leak Discovered?
On October 9, Resecurity, an American cybersecurity and intelligence agency, discovered this massive breach. The hacker ‘pwn0001’ had revealed details about the breach on Breach Forums, advertising the availability of 815 million records which included “Indian Citizen Aadhaar & Passport” data. Resecurity researchers confirmed the legitimacy of the leaked Aadhaar information by using the government portal’s “Verify Aadhaar” feature, to crosscheck a few records.
The Government’s Reaction
After discovering the leak, the Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In) alerted ICMR. The data concerning COVID-19 tests was shared among various government bodies, such as the National Informatics Centre (NIC), ICMR, and the Ministry of Health, making it hard to find where the leak came from. As of the last report, there had been no response to the leak from the Ministry of Information and Technology or other concerned agencies online.
The act of showcasing the stolen data on the dark web and what followed showed how important it is to keep data safe, more so during a worldwide health crisis like the pandemic when a lot of data was collected. This event stresses the urgent need for strong steps to protect people’s privacy and the country’s data safety, especially in tough times like a pandemic.