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India: security concerns cloud world’s largest biometric database

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)

Two security guards shot dead near Las Vegas Strip just three months after festival massacre

Two security guards were shot dead in a hotel room at a Las Vegas casino, police said. The gunman fled following the shooting at Arizona Charlie’s Decatur but was later found by police at a nearby residence with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, officers said. The condition of the suspect and the victims’ identities have not been released.

Arizona Charlie’s Decatur is a short distance west of the Las Vegas Strip.

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The hotel and casino is a short distance from the Las Vegas strip Two security guards were killed

The shooting comes as law enforcement officers are preparing for tens of thousands of New Year’s Eve revellers on the Strip.

It also comes just three months after Stephen Paddock1 , 64, shot dead 58 people at a local music festival.

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The shooting comes just three months after Stephen Paddock murdered 58 people at a Vegas music festival Paddock opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival

Paddock fired 1,100 bullets into the crowd of more than 22,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest festival from his hotel room at the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel.

References

  1. ^ Stephen Paddock (www.mirror.co.uk)

First picture of premature baby saved by heroic Asda security guard after tot stopped breathing in freezer aisle

This is the first picture of a premature baby who stopped breathing in an Asda1 supermarket and was saved by a hero security guard. Store guard Shaun Walsh and off-duty hospital worker Neil Franklin leapt into action to revive little Ronny Auckland in the store s chilled aisle on Boxing Day. The pair have now been hailed as heroes after the baby’s2 mum, Terri-ann Russell Auckland, claimed that their swift action saved the life of her son.

Ronny, who was born 13 weeks early in September, is being treated in hospital after his ordeal at the store in Grimsby, Lincs. Shaun, 44, a trained first-aider, told how he and hospital technician Neil saved Ronny, who had been suffering from bronchitis and had mucus blocking his airways. He said: I was giving chest compressions and the other gent got his airways going.

Asda hero Shaun Walsh

Shaun was alerted by fellow staff and immediately starting giving Ronny cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the floor of the aisle, while hospital medic Neil blew into the baby s mouth. Minutes later paramedics from East Midlands Ambulance Service were on the scene and the infant was taken to hospital, reports the Grimsby Telegraph3 . Terri-ann, 31, of Weelsby Street said: I can t thank them enough . I owe them everything for saving my boy s life.

They deserve all the praise in the world for what they did.

You don t know what to do is that situation . I just froze .

Luckily they were there. The mother-of-two boys said: It just shows how everyone should be trained in First Aid.


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Today she was at Ronny s bedside in the Rainforest ward of the hospital. Shaun, who has worked for Asda for nine years said his firm regularly updated his First Aid training.

He said: A staff member came running to me and said there was a boy not breathing.

When I got there his face was blue . There was a crowd of people around him so we got them out the way and myself and the off-duty medic got him breathing again . I was giving chest compressions and the other gent got his airways going . There are not many people who would have been able to do it.

But because we are trained it worked.

It paid off . It shows we are not just big bad security guards, there to get abuse from people. Shaun, 44, said: We just do what we are trained to do . You cope with whatever you are faced with .

We don t just take abuse from people who are doing something wrong . We help people as well. He told how the hospital medic shook his hand and thanked him and left the store. Shaun also went back to work to complete his shift.

He had not originally be allocated the shift on Boxing Day but volunteered his services that day. The mother posted a message on social media to thank Shaun and the other lifesaver in which she said Big thank you to Shaun and the other guy . I don t know what I would have done without you. She had been at Asda with her sister Sara Geddes to buy balloons for her other son Bobby s 7th birthday yesterday.

Asda s people trading manager, Moira Pembleton said: We are all incredibly proud of Shaun . he did an amazing job . Everyone else around was running around but he stayed calm throughout .

It was an emotional moment for everyone.

References

  1. ^ Asda (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ baby’s (www.mirror.co.uk)
  3. ^ Grimsby Telegraph (www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk)