Aadhaar Data Breach Largest in the World, Says WEF’s Global Risk Report and Avast
During 2018, the secret and sensitive data of literally hundreds of millions of people has been torn open and exposed, then aggregated on various dark web lists for sale. Malicious cyber-attacks and lax cyber-security protocols again led to massive breaches of personal information in 2018, the largest being Aadhaar from India, say two reports.
The World Economic Forum's (WEF's) Global Risks Report 2019, says, "The largest (data breach) was in India, where the government ID database, Aadhaar, reportedly suffered multiple breaches that potentially compromised the records of all 1.1 billion registered citizens. It was reported in January 2018 that criminals were selling access to the database at a rate of Rs500 for 10 minutes, while in March a leak at a state-owned utility company allowed anyone to download names and ID numbers."
WEF's Global Risks Perception Survey (GPRS) finds around two-thirds of respondents expect the risks associated with fake news and identity theft to increase in 2019, while three-fifths said the same about loss of privacy to companies and governments. But more about it later.
In a blogpost, 'Top 10 Biggest Data Breaches in 2018', Avast Software says data breaches are a terrifying top trend in the cyber-crime world that shows no sign of slowing any time soon. 
"While some data breaches are deliberate attacks, others are simply neglected databases that security auditors find lying around the web like unguarded, unlocked safes," the blog says.
According to Avast, between August 2017 and January 2018, Aadhaar numbers, names, email and physical addresses, phone numbers, and photos of almost 1.1 billion Indians were found susceptible to data breach. 
Anonymous sellers over WhatsApp charged Rs500 and lower for a portal into UIDAI where the records of virtually every citizen was at the payer’s fingertips, as reported by Rachna Khaira for The Tribune
Investigations by The Tribune reveal that the racket may have started around six months ago, when some anonymous groups were created on WhatsApp. These groups targeted over 300,000 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.
Interestingly, last year, digital security firm Gemalto had also mentioned 1.2 billion data breaches in Aadhaar database in its Breach Level Index report. However, later, it retracted its own study on Aadhaar data breaches and tendered an unconditional apology through a half-page advertisement in a leading newspaper. 
But the retraction by Gemalto was not totally unexpected as the firm has been a partner of UIDAI since the inception of Aadhaar in 2009. Gemalto has been supplying biometric scanners, including 10-finger fingerprint scanners and iris scanner. Gemalto also provides digital tokenisation solution to UIDAI. (Read: Aadhaar Data Breach: Gemalto Publishes Abject Apology; Was It To Protect Business?)
In such scenario, we wonder if WEF and Avast are also made to retract from their reports.
Coming back to the WEF's GPRS report, there were further massive data breaches in 2018, new hardware weaknesses were revealed, and research pointed to the potential uses of artificial intelligence to engineer more potent cyberattacks. 
Last year also provided further evidence that cyber-attacks pose risks to critical infrastructure, prompting countries to strengthen their screening of cross-border partnerships on national security grounds.
In the GRPS, 'massive data fraud and theft' was ranked the number four global risk by likelihood over a 10-year horizon, with 'cyber-attacks' at number five. This sustains a pattern recorded last year, with cyber-risks consolidating their position alongside environmental risks in the high impact, high-likelihood quadrant of the Global Risks Landscape. 
A large majority of respondents expected increased risks in 2019 of cyber-attacks leading to theft of money and data (82%) and disruption of operations (80%). The survey reflects how new instabilities are being caused by the deepening integration of digital technologies into every aspect of life.
Cyber vulnerabilities can come from unexpected directions, as shown in 2018 by the Meltdown and Spectre threats, which involved weaknesses in computer hardware rather than software. They potentially affected every Intel processor produced in the past 10 years.
Last year also saw continuing evidence that cyber-attacks pose risks to critical infrastructure. In July, the US government stated that hackers had gained access to the control rooms of US utility companies.
The potential vulnerability of critical technological infrastructure has increasingly become a national security concern. The second most frequently cited risk interconnection in this year’s GPRS was the pairing of cyber-attacks with critical information infrastructure breakdown.
Talking about increasing use of biometrics, the report says, we are moving into a world in which everything about us is captured, stored and subjected to artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. 
It says, "If humans are increasingly replaced by machines in crucial decision loops, the result may lead not only to greater efficiency but also to greater societal rigidity. Global politics will be affected as authoritarianism is easier in a world of total visibility and traceability, while democracy may turn out to be more difficult—many societies are already struggling to balance threats to privacy, trust and autonomy against promises of increased security, efficiency and novelty. Geopolitically, the future may hinge in part on how societies with different values treat new reservoirs of data."
"Strong systems of accountability for governments and companies using these technologies could help to mitigate the risks to individuals from biometric surveillance. This will be possible in some domestic contexts, but developing wider global norms with any traction will be a struggle," the WEF report says.
5 years ago
There is information available on tap in respect of aadhar, pan, bank account details, passport...with names if you are willing to spend resources..It is not that sources are necessarily leaky but we are sloppy and every system which rely on Ids
banking, Telecom, travel.. and the people working there dealing with info like this are equally so. So, when you make this news appear as breaking news, I just say good luck. Privacy, data security.. they are a passe' in a country where open defecation is not a shame.
P M Ravindran
5 years ago
"Strong systems of accountability for governments and companies using these technologies could help to mitigate the risks to individuals from biometric surveillance. This will be possible in some domestic contexts, but developing wider global norms with any traction will be a struggle," the WEF report says.

Let us not forget that ours is a government that has not only failed totally to implement the so called sunshine Act-Right to Information Act- but has actually subverted it to such an extent that any body trying to use it will end up losing the money, time and effort invested in gaining information that the Act itself claims to be 'vital to its (democracy's) functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed'. Worse, the judiciary has been in the forefront of subversion of this law too.

Often the ordinary citizens are criticised for being uninformed, if not illiterate, for the sordid state of affairs. But what such critics fail to take cognisance of is the experience of those who are adequately literate, knowledgeable and articulate. Even in the case of Sabarimala , where the constitutional bench of the apex court actually delivered a verdict that is in total violation of Article 26 of the Constitution, I have not heard a single critic of the verdict actually say it in so many terms. It is the same platitudes of the court not been appraised of the correct facts, case laws etc.

The same goes with the Adhaar verdict too.

Readers may like to go through my blog at https://www.scribd.com/document/124887823/Democracy-East-is-East-and-West-is-West
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