TRAI chief’s Aadhaar challenge decoded: Why R S Sharma gave out his Aadhaar number

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Updated: July 31, 2018 10:07:39 AM

Aadhaar row: After TRAI chief RS Sharma threw open a challenge to hackers by revealing his Aadhaar number, he said that none can cause harm by just knowing the Aadhaar number. We take a closer look.

“Aadhaar is designed in such a way that it cannot cause harm to the holder, but only ‘empower’ him or her,” RS Sharma said.

Aadhaar row: After TRAI chief R S Sharma threw open a challenge to hackers by revealing his Aadhaar number, he said that Aadhaar can never cause harm to the holder but only empower him or her. Notably, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R S Sharma had tweeted, “ My Aadhaar number is 7621 7768 2740. Now I give this challenge to you: Show me one concrete example where you can do any harm to me!”

In an article that appeared on the Indian Express this morning, RS Sharma said that no harm could be caused to anybody by just leaking or sharing the Aadhaar number. “I had said so in an interview recently. In reaction to the article, one Twitter user challenged me to publish my Aadhaar details if I had so much trust in the system. I thought about it and decided I should have the courage to act on my belief. While I am an impulsive person at times, this tweet was not an impulsive one,” RS Sharma explained.

Interestingly, the tweet then went viral, with many Twitter users claiming to have found out the Sharma’s personal details such as phone number and address. Dismissing all such claims, UIDAI said in a statement, “UIDAI strongly dismissed the claims made by certain elements on Twitter and a section of Media that they have fetched personal details of Shri Ram Sewak Sharma who is a public servant using his Aadhaar number.”

In the detailed article with The Indian Express, Sharma sent out important messages to his well-wishers. “Having devoted an important part of my life to contributing to the design and implementation of Aadhaar, I do understand how it works and what can and cannot be done with it.” Sharma said that he wanted to prove the larger point that Aadhaar is designed in such a way that it cannot cause harm to the holder, but only ‘empower’ him or her.

TRAI chairman then went on to say that Aadhaar was indeed safe to share in actual use. “Aadhaar provides only authentication services and in doing so, the UIDAI does not know where it is linked to, in a federated data model,” he pointed out.

While Sharma had revealed his Aadhaar details, he advised others to refrain from doing it. “I am not suggesting for a moment that any of you could also publicly share your Aadhaar number. Far from it. Replicating the same challenge doesn’t prove anything more,” he said.

While a few hackers may have claimed to have fished out his personal details using the Aadhaar number, Sharma dismissed such claims saying that such information could have easily been found doing a determined Google search. “Finally, to the so-called hackers who actually challenged me, rather than the other way around: You have found information about me that other users could have obtained by a determined Google search without the benefit of knowing the Aadhaar number,” he said.  

RS Sharma also revealed that a few hackers tried to hack his email accounts (unsuccessfully) and to make him subscribe to a large number of services. “Many of these services take reasonable precautions and have sent me innumerable OTPs in their attempt to authenticate my ID. That’s been a waste on their part and a waste of my time,” he said.

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