Aadhaar encryption protects privacy, will take eons to crack

NEW DELHI: The Aadhaar system’s data collection and storage is strongly protected by sophisticated encryption processes to ensure biometric data does not leak either through private contractors running enrollment centres or at the central data servers that store the details.

The unique identity authority of India’s processes are intended to allay fears that biometric data collected by private contractors might be vulnerable to falling in unauthorized hands as the biometric detail is encrypted using the highest available public key cryptography encryption.

Even if the data is stolen or lost the encryption prevents access to the biometrics as it will require the most powerful computers literally eons to crack the code. Similarly at the central data centre, the encryption processes are repeated while storing the details, making attempts to access and use the data very difficult.

The government hopes that the lack of human interface in storing the data and procedures such as data collectors being required to authenticate every entry though their own biometric verification will help convince the Supreme Court that privacy concerns have been addressed by the UIDAI.

The UIDAI programme’s success is indicated by lack of any credible complaints or proof of misuse of data since it started the ambitious scheme almost five year ago. This is partly due to the processes that make even loss of a recording machine or copying on a flash drive a futile exercise.

The data are being collected on software-Enrollment Client (EC) Software-written, maintained and provided by the UIDAI and is encrypted to prevent leaks at the enrollment centres managed by private vendors and in transit. The private agencies on ground use the EC Software which ensures that only authentic and approved person can sign-in for the purpose of enrolling people.

The enrollment client software used by private vendors strongly encrypts individual electronic files containing demographic and biometric details (enrollment data packets) of residents at the time of enrollment and even before the data is saved in any hard disk.

The encryption uses highest available public key cryptography encryption (PKI-2048 and AES-256) with each data record having a built-in mechanism to detect any tampering.

The e-data packages are always stored on disk in PKI encrypted form and is never decrypted or modified during transit making it completely inaccessible to any system or person.

Among other security measures, UIDAI has ensured that the Aadhaar database is not linked to any other databases., or to information held in other databases and its only purpose is to verify a person’s identity at the point of receiving a service, and that too with the consent of the Aadhaar number holder.