Aadhaar adds new security layer with 16-digit 'Virtual ID'

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The move comes amid heightened concerns around the collection and storage of personal and demographic data of individuals after The Tribune reported it bought unrestricted access to details of over one billion Aadhaar numbers - for just Rs 500 and in 10 minutes.

Their main point of contention is that the UIDAI which is mandated to issue 12-digit random number as Unique Identity - Aadhaar to all the citizens of India, "is trying to rectify technical breach by its untested technology". The necessary APIs are planned to be released by March 1, 2018. "I am clueless about how it is going to help or how it will work in rural areas", he said.

Under the new system, which will come into effect by June 1, all Aadhaar transactions will take place with a virtual ID - a 16-digit, randomly-generated number that will be used for authentication to avail services, instead of the actual Aadhaar number. Moreover, you can use the Virtual ID as many times as you want, or keep generating a new one every time you have to share your unique ID with a service provider.

Aadhaar number holder can use VID in lieu of Aadhaar number whenever authentication or KYC services are performed.Authentication may be performed using VID in a manner similar to using Aadhaar number. This ID will be used to authenticate Aadhaar users through a new authentication method that UIDAI is calling Limited KYC. "The concept is attractive, but the devil is in the details", observed Pavan Duggal, cyberlaw expert, adding that the new system does not address those who have already gained unauthorised access to Aadhaar numbers.

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In a recent online survey, conducted by social engagement platform LocalCircles, 52% of the respondents said they feared that their Aadhaar data might not be safe from unauthorised access by hackers and information sellers. You can also generate/replace VIDs on the Aadhaar mobile app and at enrolment centres. This will be a 16-digit number and will be valid only for a limited period of time. It will be revocable number mapped with your Aadhaar number.

The UIDAI said on Wednesday the Virtual ID, which would be a random 16-digit number, together with biometrics of the user, would give any authorised agency like a mobile company, limited details like name, address and photograph, which are enough for any verification.

The database, known officially as Aadhaar, was launched in 2009 as a voluntary program meant to help prevent benefit fraud, it has since grown, and is now home to the collected data - including fingerprints and iris scans - of more than a billion Indians, or upwards of 90% of the entire population. They can also revoke and generate a new VID on a timely basis after the time limit set by UIDAI. Global AUAs, potentially like banks will still need Aadhaar for Direct Benefit Transfers.