French re­searcher flags Aar­o­gya flaws, govt de­nies

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - FRONT PAGE - Bi­nayak Das­gupta and Am­rita Mad­hukalya n let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

NEWDELHI: The Union gov­ern­ment’s Aar­o­gya Setu ap­pli­ca­tion has vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that could com­pro­mise the iden­tity and move­ment of the mil­lions of In­di­ans who use it, ac­cord­ing to a French com­puter re­searcher who posted a tech­ni­cal anal­y­sis of the flaws on Wed­nes­day, and os­ten­si­bly il­lus­trated how he could de­ter­mine whether some­one re­ported be­ing in­fected at sen­si­tive lo­ca­tions such as Par­lia­ment. The de­vel­op­ers of the ap­pli­ca­tion dis­missed the find­ings as a risk and said it was part of the ap­pli­ca­tion’s de­sign that is meant to al­low users to de­ter­mine who in their vicin­ity is un­well, in­fected or healthy. But the de­fence was dis­missed by the French­man – who goes by the nom de guerre of El­liot Alder­son --- and a sec­ond cy­ber ex­pert HT spoke to.

The gov­ern­ment also said the plat­form is “ab­so­lutely ro­bust, safe and se­cure”.

“This is a tech­no­log­i­cal in­ven­tion of In­dia — min­istry of elec­tron­ics and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, our sci­en­tists, NIC, Niti Aayog and some pri­vate (en­ti­ties) — whereby it is a per­fectly ac­count­able plat­form to help in the corona fight,” Union min­is­ter Ravi Shankar Prasad told PTI.

The posts by Alder­son add to the mis­giv­ings ex­pressed by pri­vacy ex­perts around apps such as Aar­o­gya Setu, which has been made manda­tory for an in­creas­ing num­ber of In­di­ans as of­fi­cials push it as a cru­cial tool to con­tain the Covid-19 out­break.

Ac­cord­ing to Alder­son, the ap­pli­ca­tion’s lo­ca­tion func­tion­al­ity can be paired with a tech­nique called tri­an­gu­la­tion, which could al­low any­one who can ma­nip­u­late the pro­gramme at a tech­ni­cal level to de­ter­mine who is in­fected in a spe­cific, 1-me­tre area. Tri­an­gu­la­tion refers to use of mul­ti­ple data points to zero in on a pre­cise in­for­ma­tion or lo­ca­tion that is oth­er­wise avail­able on a more vague scale.

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