A file picture of people take part in a Hackathon as part of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Bangalore, India, 19 November 2014. Over one hundred software professionals and students took part in the event themed 'Tech for Good' for ethical hackers, a day long coding event to build applications which could benenfit society. EPA/JAGADEESH NV

India denies data theft from government portal amid calls for investigation

New Delhi, June 12 (EFE).- The Indian government on Monday denied that personal data has been stolen from the official Cowin platform, created by Indian authorities for the management of coronavirus vaccination, among criticism from opposition parties demanding an investigation into the matter.

“There are some media reports claiming breach of data of beneficiaries who have received COVID vaccination in the country,” the health ministry said in a statement.

“It is clarified that all such reports are without any basis and mischievous in nature,” the government added, in response to reports by media outlets about the existence of a computer bot on the messaging platform Telegram that provided data such as the digital identity number of Aadhaar, which contains biometric data of millions of people in the country.

The Minister of State for Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, said it did not appear that the Cowin app or database had been directly compromised, and that the information provided on Telegram seemed to be from data “previously stolen.”

“Union Health Ministry has requested the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In),” the ministry statement said, following calls for an investigation from opposition parties.

“In its Digital India frenzy, GoI has woefully ignored citizen privacy. Personal data of every single Indian who got COVID-19 vaccination is publicly available,” tweeted the parliamentarian from the opposition Indian National Congress, Karti P Chidambaram, while attaching a screenshot of a Telegram message containing his personal information.

All India Trinamool Congress spokesperson Saket Gokhale described the alleged data breach as “a matter of serious national concern” on Twitter and shared details of opposition leaders and journalists allegedly from the Telegram platform.

India, which has been the most populous country in the world since last May – according to the UN -, has repeatedly defended the security of its digital data systems, although the lack of legislation on data privacy has sparked criticism. EFE