TRAI chief RS Sharma’s Aadhaar debacle should be a learning experience for all

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One of the interesting and most talked and published concept in recent times (around 2014) has been the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, which is sometimes also called the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”. The idea was to dump a bucket of ice and water over an individual’s head irrespective of the ambient temperature. This novel idea was floated for a very noble purpose. It was for creating awareness and accumulating donations in respect of the motor neurone disease “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)”.

Social media contributed in a very big way towards the success of this idea. Witnessing success of this idea, lot of other different ideas has been put by the individuals, groups, players, film personalities and politicians either for gaining publicity or funding for their ideas.

Just few days back, personal details of TRAI (The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) chief has got disclosed, when he circulated this Aadhaar card number on his twitter account intentionally. This was his challenge to demonstrate no harm could be done to him just by knowing his Aadhaar number. However, it appears that the hackers had a field day after the discloser of his Aadhaar number and have started publishing various personal details about him including his bank account details.

Now, there have been claims and counterclaims about whether the actual hack has happened or the information which has been published is collected by using the Google search engine. However, getting bank details and deposing token Re 1 in his account actually demonstrates the reach of the hackers and this does not appears to be only the “Google search” operation.

There could be various “lessons learned” from this event and the most important lesson is that, “do not take the hacking community lightly”.

Computer hacking is known to be in existence since 1960s onwards. The known early attempts involved disturbing the functioning of computers in premises of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States. One of the most well-designed and successful hack from this period was the UNIX operating system, developed in the late 1960s by Bell Labs. Subsequently, there are various known incidences about what a hacker could do, like stooping Iran’s nuclear bravado by using Stuxnet, a malicious computer worm (2010). Today, cyber security is a major global concern with no immediate solutions insight. Broadly, hacking is of two types: there are ethical hackers and there are people with bad intentions. Ethical hackers assist the system to improve by identifying faults in their design.

Off let cyber related frauds in financial sectors particularly, the bank frauds are found happening almost on routine basis globally. So from bank scams to the so called manipulation of the US elections by Russians, almost anything and everything is found being manipulated by using cyber means. Cryptography, is considered to be one of the better options for managing cyber security. Here the process used is encryption, which involves encoding a message or information in such a way that unauthorised people would be prevented from getting access.

However, everything can be encrypted. There is a considered view that cyber security is actually a myth and anything and everything which operates on the system of “zeros and ones” is hackable, and if you are connected with the internet, then it is bit easy for the attacker, but otherwise also it is not impossible.

The moral of the story is that, it is advisable to remain discrete as far as possible on cyber space. If someone throws a challenge, then, be rest assured that someone will accept it. In a way, by doing this you are unnecessarily exposing yourself. In the era of social media, it appears that people in general, are going through some sort of identity crisis.

In spite of being aware that the most precious commodity in the 21st century is data, people are making all relevant/irrelevant data available on the cyber space. There appears to be some hidden competition to tell rest of the world about your achievements, assets, views and thoughts. Possibly, the popularity of the social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are actually demonstrating the desperation of some people/groups to get noticed.

Today, the best brains in the world are known to engage in hacking business. The global antivirus software industry is in a good shape thanks to intelligent hackers with bad intentions. For an average Indian, Aadhaar is a good idea, useful in many respects and offers some form of individual identity. However, this does not mean that it is not hackable. At the same time it is also important not to presume that Aadhaar is the only digital option to know about someone.

Some individuals have already made their cyber footprint available (willingly) via various social media platforms. In the cyber world, the “risk” (possibility of some bad things happening) of getting hacked always exists. The real challenge is not to get “harmed” (causing actual damage) unnecessarily. The hackers have almost no interest in most of us, until and unless you challenge them otherwise. There is a vast difference between an Ice Bucket Challenge and challenging the hacker!

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