Centre for Internet & Society

Days after reports surfaced claiming security breaches, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Wednesday announced the implementation of a new security protocol that would remove the need to divulge Aadhaar numbers during authentication processes and limit third-party access to KYC details.

The article was published in New Indian Express on January 11, 2018.

Admitting that the “collection and storage of Aadhaar numbers by various entities has heightened privacy concerns”, the UIDAI circular said Authentication User Agencies (AUAs) providing Aadhaar services have to be ready to implement the protocol from March 1, 2018. From June 1 use of Virtual ID for authentication would be mandatory.

The linchpin of the new protocol will be the virtual ID (VID) — a “temporary, revocable 16-digit random number” that can be used instead of Aadhaar to verify or link services. VIDs will have a limited validity and can be generated only by the Aadhaar holder. “UIDAI will provide various options to generate, retrieve and replace VIDs… these will be made available via UIDAI’s resident portal, Aadhaar Enrolment Centre, mAadhaar mobile application, etc.,” it said. While only one VID per Aadhaar number will be valid at a time, users can revoke and generate new VIDs as many times as desired.

UIDAI will also limit KYC details accessible by AUAs by classifying them as Global AUAs, which are required to use Aadhaar e-KYC by law, and Local AUAs. Only the former will have full access to e-KYC details and can store Aadhaar numbers. Local AUAs will only have access to limited KYC details and be prohibited from storing Aadhaar numbers. UIDAI will also generate UID tokens which will be used to identify customers within agencies’ systems, but these will not be usable by other AUAs.

However, cybersecurity experts say that even if the new “patch” is effective, verification processes will have to be redone to prevent misuse of already-leaked Aadhaar numbers. “The concept is attractive, but the devil is in the details,” observed Pavan Duggal, cyberlaw expert, adding that the new system does not address those who have already gained unauthorised access to Aadhaar numbers. Sunil Abraham, executive director, Centre for Internet and Society, was more categorical. “If it has to be effective, they will have to redo (Aadhaar-KYC) from scratch.”