There’s the mannequin challenge. There’s the ALS challenge. And, there is the new Kiki challenge. However, Twitter recently saw former UIDAI director and TRAI chairman Ram Sewak Sharma issue a first of its kind ‘Aadhaar challenge,’ challenging people to do harm to him after having posted his Aadhaar number. Needless to say, Twitter took it from there.
A Bold & Rash Twitter Challenge
‘Show me one concrete example where you can do any harm to me,’ tweeted Sharma, as he shared his Aadhaar number.
And it turns out, Twitter did have a blast.
Soon, Sharma was flooded by a lot of tweets claiming to have a whole lot of Sharma’s personal info.
Front and centre among these Twitterati was a certain Elliot Alderson (A nickname inspired by Mr. Robot), a supposedly French security expert who had previously pointed out flaws in the Aadhaar system.
Accepting the challenge, Alderson ‘leaked’ R.S. Sharma’s private phone number, address, Whatsapp DP, PAN info and even suggested Sharma change his Gmail password.
Not the way to go when a challenge has been so boldly issued, right?
An Actual Leak Or Just A Case Of Easily Accessible Info?
Did the French expert really hack into the UIDAI database and leak all that info? It’s difficult to say, to be honest. This is partly because as TRAI chairman, a lot of his info is in public domain and is easily verifiable, including the contact info and email address.
As for the more personal info, like the PAN card and WhatsApp details, Mr. Sharma has issued no verification or denial of the same, nor has he taken back the Aadhaar challenge or asked the Twitterati to cease and desist on the same.
On the other hand, UIDAI itself has denied any breach as it tweeted, ‘Aadhaar database is totally safe and has proven its security robustness over last eight years. UIDAI emphatically stated that any information published on Twitter about the said individual RS Sharma was not fetched from Aadhaar database or UIDAI’s servers.’
Press Statement: UIDAI strongly dismissed the claims made by certain elements on Twitter and a section of Media that they have fetched personal details of Shri Ram Sewak Sharma who is a public servant using his Aadhaar number. 1/n
— Aadhaar (@UIDAI) July 29, 2018
Why The Case For An Aadhaar Challenge Is Flawed
A legit leak or not, is the challenge itself up for debate?
There’s confidence and there’s overconfidence. And then, there is the kind of reckless arrogance that can cause a lot of harm to a lot of people. TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma’s challenge is the latter.
Despite many cases of leaks in the past, including by some state agencies itself, the confidence of the authorities to say that Aadhaar in unbreachable is reckless. Reckless and even dumb because as the past has shown, Aadhaar is not immune to breaches and is far from it actually.
Even if we assume it was safe, however, the issuance of such a bold public challenge by a public servant encourages more and more people to try and hack into the system frequently until they finally succeed, including people who may not just be doing that prove a point.
It’s basic human psychology. If someone challenges the rest that they can’t do something, the rest will try harder to disprove that.
Secondly, there’s the issue of public disclosure. The government under the Aadhaar Act has been working hard to penalize people and organizations that have published leaked Aadhaar info and have always insisted that the Indian citizenry does not disclose such info to anyone. Not even as a dumb dare.
For a public official to release his Aadhaar number so publicly, in a brazen Aadhaar challenge is a violation of the law and dilutes the message the government wants to send to its people.
As long as leaks continue to happen, there’s no way anyone can have full confidence in the security of the Aadhaar system. Concrete, real steps should be taken to build the peoples’ confidence in it, and not by issuing a rash and dumb online Aadhaar challenge.
Image sources: Google Images
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