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Alleged breach of India’s biometric database could put 1.2bn users at risk

The announcement comes a full seven days after journalist Rachna Khaira first identified the alleged breach in an article in the Tribune newspaper1, in which it was claimed reporters were able to buy access to citizens’ personal details, such as names, addresses, phone numbers and even photos, via an anonymous WhatsApp account for as little as $8.

The database, known officially as Aadhaar, was launched in 2009 as a voluntary program intended to help prevent benefit fraud, it has since grown, and is now home to the collected data — including fingerprints and iris scans — of more than a billion Indians, or upwards of 90% of the entire population. Users are issued with a personal 12-digit identity number which they can then use to access welfare payments, and other government controlled services. Authorities have been widely criticized for their handling of the allegations, which if proven correct, could expose users to identity fraud and privacy invasions. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for maintaining the database, initially denied the claims, dismissing the Tribune story as “clearly a case of misreporting being incorrect and misleading.”

This was followed by a tweet from the official account of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) referring to the report as “fake news2,” last Thursday.

A day after Khaira’s report, the UIDAI filed a police complaint against her, the Tribune newspaper, and the anonymous individuals who allegedly provided them with access to the database, a move that served only to inflame the crisis further, and stoke wider concerns over diminishing press freedoms. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Paris-based NGO which publishes an annual index of press freedom, last year ranked India at 136 out of 180 countries, down 3 places from the previous year, and lagging behind the likes of Myanmar, Colombia and even Zimbabwe. The controversy led Edward Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor and high profile whistle blower, to weigh in with a tweet offering his support to Khaira, Tuesday.

“The journalists exposing the #Aadhaar breach deserve an award, not an investigation . If the government were truly concerned for justice, they would be reforming the policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians . Want to arrest those responsible ? They are called @UIDAI,” said Snowden. The agency quickly backtracked, and by late Tuesday afternoon had tweeted its support for press freedoms and its apparent willingness to work with the Tribune to investigate the problem. It remains unclear, however, whether the UIDAI has in fact dropped its police complaint against Khaira.

Security measures

The newest government security measures, announced late Wednesday, will allow users to generate a randomly-generated virtual ID or token to avoid sharing their direct Aadhaar number for authentication, according to the government notice . A second security measure prevents secondary agencies from storing an individual’s Aadhaar number.

Experts say the move will go some way in addressing issues raised in the Tribune report, as well as broader safety concerns. Amber Sinha, a senior program manager at the Centre for Internet and Society, a research institute based in Delhi and Bangalore described the government’s announcement as a welcome measure. “There have been various kinds of security incidents, but tokenization can definitely address some of them,” said Sinha. According to Sinha, the database’s biometric data, which contains the most sensitive information, such as retinal scans, has not been breached and reports in the press are related to demographic data, which can also exist in separate databases, owned by different government agencies or state governments. Though implemented under the previous administration, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has championed the database, and pushed to make Aadhaar cards mandatory. The new security measures come a day after a report from a research institute affiliated with the Reserve Bank of India labeled the database “a prime target.”

“Thanks to Aadhaar, for the first time in the history of India, there is now a readily available single target for cyber criminals as well as India’s external enemies .. . The loss to the economy and citizens in case of such an attack is bound to be incalculable,” said the report by the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology3.

While the authorities did not cite a specific reason for the new security measures, they did say there were “heightened privacy concerns,” according to the statement from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

References

  1. ^ article in the Tribune newspaper (www.tribuneindia.com)
  2. ^ fake news (twitter.com)
  3. ^ Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (www.idrbt.ac.in)

Three Uber security managers reportedly resigned today

Three Uber Security Managers Reportedly Resigned Today

Three senior-level security managers resigned from Uber today, Reuters reported1 earlier today . One of the three who resigned, Pooja Ashok, was chief of staff to now-former Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan . Sullivan was fired last week for trying to hide the security breach that affected about 57 million riders and 600,00 drivers. The other two who resigned were Prithvi Rai, a senior security engineer, and Jeff Jones . Both Ashok and Jones are planning to stay at Uber until January to help with the transition.

Uber s security practices have been under intense scrutiny lately . Last month, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi disclosed the company failed to report the massive 2016 data breach.2 Earlier this week in court, Uber s chief legal officer called out the company s pre-Khosrowshahi security practices for gathering information on competitors . Insight into Uber s tactics came to light during an evidentiary hearing regarding its legal battle with Alphabet s Waymo over self-driving car technologies.

An Uber spokesperson confirmed the departures to TechCrunch, saying that they had nothing to do with the company s ongoing investigations.

Featured Image: ANTHONY WALLACE/Getty Images

References

  1. ^ Reuters reported (www.reuters.com)
  2. ^ failed to report the massive 2016 data breach. (techcrunch.com)

Heavy security blankets Las Vegas Marathon in wake of shooting

It’s the biggest event since a gunman, hiding in a hotel room above the famous Strip, killed 58 people at an outdoor concert.

More than month later, authorities still don’t know 1what drove 64-year-old wealthy retiree Stephen Paddock to stage the attack . Paddock was found dead in his hotel room — apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot. “There’s a subdued tone to the race this year,” marathon spokesman Dan Cruz told CNN affiliate KSNV2.Police will have 350 officers on the ground and will use dump trucks, buses and other large vehicles as barriers to protect the crowds, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Captain Andy Walsh told CNN affiliate KTNV3.

“We’ve added some counter-sniper surveillance posts along the route . We’re going to have coverage from our helicopter unit,” Walsh said. The city is also working to install 800 steel posts along the Strip as part of larger plan to keep pedestrians and vehicles apart, KSNV reports.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon4 begins at 4:30 p.m . local time (7:30 p.m . ET) and is expected to draw 40,000 runners from more than 70 countries, CNN affiliate KLAS5 reports.

Organizers bill it as “a unique opportunity for marathoners,” saying the race starts at sunset, when “the city comes to life with lights shining like you’ve never seen before.”

Runners defiant

Few runners canceled their registrations in wake of last month’s shooting, Cruz told KSNV. “I think it’s going to be the safest race we’ve ever been in,” Las Vegan Jim Lamatrice told the CNN affiliate. Participants have been warned to expect a greater security presence than in years past . Runners are being funneled into a blocked-off starting area, where their bibs will be checked and confirmed both upon entry and at the starting line. Some say the shooting has given the marathon new meaning.

Esther Reincke told KTNV6 that she is dedicating her marathon to Cameron Robinson, her coworker and running buddy who was killed in the shooting.

“I can run now and Cameron can’t .

That’s really moving for me, to have somebody that was so young and so full of life and really just getting his life going,” Reincke said.

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Runners are encouraged to wear #VegasStrong t-shirts, and organizers have included tributes to the victims along the race course . The first two and half miles will be “an extended moment of silence,” according to Cruz . The rest of the course will follow the typical “Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon formula” by featuring a live band at every mile to fire up racers. The course will also include a 300-foot #VegasStrong wall signed by runners and lit up in honor of the shooting victims.

References

  1. ^ still don’t know (www.cnn.com)
  2. ^ KSNV (news3lv.com)
  3. ^ KTNV (www.ktnv.com)
  4. ^ Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon (www.runrocknroll.com)
  5. ^ KLAS (www.lasvegasnow.com)
  6. ^ Esther Reincke told KTNV (www.ktnv.com)