Excerpt from Newsclick Article, Published on Oct 30, 2023

In what is now the largest data exposed ever recorded in India, the sensitive COVID-19 test information of 81.5 crore individuals affiliated with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been discovered on the dark web. This alarming revelation includes the exposure of names, Aadhaar and passport details, phone numbers, and addresses, according to findings by the US cybersecurity agency Resecurity.

The breach came to light on October 9 when Resecurity identified a threat actor operating under the pseudonym ‘pwn0001.’ This individual posted a thread on Breach Forums, openly sharing access to Aadhaar and passport records. To substantiate the authenticity of the leaked data, ‘pwn0001’ provided spreadsheets containing substantial Aadhaar data fragments.

Resecurity highlighted that among the leaked records, one sample included 100,000 pieces of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) related to Indian residents. This data was cross-verified through a government portal’s “Verify Aadhaar” feature, confirming the legitimacy of Aadhaar credentials.

It was claimed that the data, originating from COVID-19 test records, was sourced from ICMR. Although the precise source of the leak remains unidentified, parts of the test data are known to have been transmitted to the National Informatics Centre, ICMR, and the health ministry.

Despite News18’s efforts to reach out to ICMR’s director general for comment, no response was received. However, sources have confirmed that CERT-In alerted ICMR about the breach, and the sample data was verified to match the actual ICMR records.

The government has already started taking corrective action to limit the damage resulting from the breach, which is believed to have involved foreign actors. A premier agency, the CBI, is likely to take up the investigation once ICMR files an official complaint.

This incident follows several attempts by hackers to breach ICMR data since February, with over 6,000 such attempts last year alone. The recent data exposed underscores the vulnerability of India’s health system to cyberattacks, emphasizing the need for increased cybersecurity measures and vigilance.

To delve deeper into this topic, please read the full article on Newsclick.