Another security lapse has exposed millions of Aadhaar numbers.
This time, India’s state-owned gas company Indane left exposed a part of its website for dealers and distributors, even though it’s only supposed to be accessible with a valid username and password. But the part of the site was indexed in Google, allowing anyone to bypass the login page altogether and gain unfettered access to the dealer database.
The data was found by a security researcher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the Indian authorities. Aadhaar’s regulator, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is known to quickly dismiss reports of data breaches or exposures, calling critical news articles “fake news,” and threatening legal action and filing police complaints against journalists.
Baptiste Robert, a French security researcher who goes by the online handle Elliot Alderson and has prior experience investigating Aadhaar exposures. Using a custom-built script to scrape the database, he found customer data for 11,000 dealers, including names and addresses of customers, as well as the customers’ confidential Aadhaar number hidden in the link of each record.
Robert, who explained more about his findings in a blog post, found 5.8 million Indane customer records before his script was blocked. In all, Robert estimated the total number affected could surpass 6.7 million customers.
We verified a sample of Aadhaar numbers from the site using UIDAI’s own web-based verification tool. Each record came back as a positive match.
It’s the latest security lapse involving Aadhaar data, and the second lapse to embroil Indane. Last year, the gas and energy company was found leaking data from an endpoint with a direct connection to Aadhaar’s database. This time, however, the leak is believed to be limited to its own data.
IIn an attached statement, instead of acknowledging the breach of its customers’ data, the company tried to defend Aadhaar and Indian Government by saying:
“IndianOil in its software captures only the Aadhaar number which is required for LPG subsidy transfer. No other Aadhaar related details are captured by IndianOil. Therefore, leakage of Aadhaar data is not possible through us.”
“In the past, Oil Marketing Companies on time to time basis were hosting the consumption of subsidized LPG refills by consumers, multiple connections list having customer information like consumer number, name, LPG ID and address, in public domain (transparency portal) in their respective websites which was available for social audits.”
“There is no Aadhaar number hosted on this website.
The exposure is likely to reignite fresh concerns that the Aadhaar system is not as secure as UIDAI has claimed. Although few of the security incidents have involved a direct breach of Aadhaar’s central database, the weakest link remains the companies or government departments that rely on the data.