After reports claimed that personal data of those who registered on the CoWIN portal to get their coronavirus vaccines had been leaked, Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar on Monday said that it seems to have been accessed from previously breached databases.

In June 2021, a hacker group named Dark Leak Market had claimed that it had access to the database of about 15 crore Indians who registered on the government portal. On Monday, Chandrasekhar did not specify which particular set of stolen data he was referring to and if it was from CoWIN.

The Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology also did not explicitly state whether or not the CoWIN database was breached recently or in the past.

In a tweet, he wrote: “The data being accessed by [a] bot from a threat actor database, which seems to have been populated with previously stolen data stolen in the past.”

Names, date of birth, phone, passport and Aadhaar numbers of those who registered for vaccination on the CoWIN portal were shared by the bot on messaging app Telegram, The News Minute reported.

The bot, which was taken down on Monday morning, could fetch the personal details of an individual if their phone or Aadhaar number was entered.

More than 110 crore people are registered on CoWIN.

The alleged breach was first reported by The Fourth, a Malayalam news portal, after it accessed details of Kerala Health Minister Veena George, CoWIN panel chairperson Ram Sewak Sharma, Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal and Union Minister Meenakhi Lekhi.

The News Minute was able to get access to details of Lok Sabha MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, Telangana minister Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao, Former Union minister Harsh Vardhan, Bharatiya Janata Party Tamil Nadu chief K Annamalai and Congress MP Karti Chidambaram through the bot on the Telegram group. All of them except Vardhan confirmed the veracity of the details the news website got from the bot.

Chandrasekhar, in his tweet, said that the CoWIN portal was not “directly breached”. However, the Union health ministry has asked the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, the nodal cyber security agency, to investigate the issue and submit a report.

The Congress has sought a judicial investigation into the Centre’s “entire data management apparatus”, saying that it was clear that citizens could not trust the government with their private information.

Congress General Secretary (Communications) Jairam Ramesh said that the alleged data breach had serious implications for privacy and security. He asked Chandrashekhar to clarify his statement that the Telegram bot was accessing a database that seemed to have been populated with “data stolen in the past”.

Ramesh asked: “If CoWIN database hasn’t been ‘directly breached’, is the minister then accepting that it is an indirect breach? What other databases are linked to the CoWIN database that has led to this vulnerability?”

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