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Cyber security expert, Volodymyr “Bob” Diachenko of SecurityDiscovery, has issued a data exposure report about UAN members in India. Even while this is not the first instance of government data being compromised on the internet, Bob’s findings about UAN database records suggest something bigger.
How did Bob find the exposed data of Indian UAN database records?
On August 2, 2022, Volodymyr Diachenko found 2 IP addresses with password-less Elasticsearch clusters. The two IPs had record flows with indices called UAN of 280,472,941 and 8,390,524.
This data included details about EPFO members, including information about their employment, bank accounts, income status, Aadhaar information, bank seeding status, and more. However, it was unclear who exposed the data or to whom the information belonged.
Talking about the data leak exclusively to The Cyber Express, Diachenko said, “From my experience, most (if not all) of the recently reported “hacks” were resulted from misconfigurations and exposures of data in public domain, rather than from a sophisticated attack. So, following cyber hygiene rules is very important.
— Bob Diachenko (@MayhemDayOne) August 2, 2022
After his tweet about the exposed data, his Indian colleagues notified him, adding, “This is a very serious data breach, and they say that UANs are pretty sensitive, and in this database, they are combined with other data.” The two IP addresses were taken down 12 hours after the Tweet was posted, and as of August 3, 2022, no agency or government organization has claimed the data.
In January 2019, India’s largest bank, State Bank of India, reported a data breach, leaking the personal information of millions of customers. Similarly, in February 2018, a previous data breach resulted in EPFO suspending the Aadhaar-seeding services and closing down the EPFO website. But nothing comes close to the data exposure of UAN database records that are now discovered.
What is a UAN number, and why is it important?
The Indian Ministry of Labour and Employment issues UAN, a 12-digit identity number given to employers and employees. This number is essential to the personnel registry program run by the Indian government.
The UAN number is given out by the Employees’ Fund Organization (EPFO), which is also in charge of collecting the provident fund (PF) amount from both employees and employers. When salaried employees need urgent, it also serves as an emergency corpus.
Under Section 80C of the Indian Income Tax Act, which states that an employee’s payment to a PF is deemed eligible for a tax exception, the Indian tax system also uses EPFO. Lastly, employees don’t have to pay taxes on earnings generated through the EPF scheme.