Cong sharpens attack on Centre over data breach claim

New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday intensified its attack on the Centre over the alleged data breach on CoWIN platform and accused it of not being able to protect the personal details of crores of people.

Asserting that the CoWIN portal was completely safe with adequate safeguards for data privacy, the government has dismissed as “mischievous” the claims of data breach on the platform and said the matter has been reviewed by the country’s nodal cyber security agency CERT-In.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said neither does the Narendra Modi government care about the right to privacy of citizens nor about national security.

“Overall, the situation is clear. The Modi government neither cares about the fundamental right to privacy of 140 crore people nor about national security. Data privacy law has not been made and no national security policy has been implemented on cyber attacks,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.

“No matter how much an irresponsible Modi government covers up the CoWIN data leak, three things are clear – The public’s personal data is not secure. All Indians know how in 2017 the Modi government strongly opposed the Supreme Court declaring Right to Privacy as a fundamental right.

“Cyber attacks and data leaks have continuously increased in the country…whether it is the ‘world’s biggest’ Aadhaar data breach of 2018 or the November 2022 cyber attack on AIIMS,” the Congress chief said in a series of tweets.

Significantly, he said, the Modi government had told the apex court in September 2018 that Aadhaar data was protected in 13 feet high and five feet thick walls.

Kharge claimed that cyber attacks have increased many folds during the tenure of the Modi government which is “beating the drum of Digital India”.

Citing figures given by the government in a written answer in the Rajya Sabha in February this year, he said, in 2018, here have been 2.08 lakh cyber attacks, in 2019 – 3.94 lakh, in 2020 – 11.58 lakh, in 2021 – 14.02 lakh and in 2022 -13.91 lakh cyber attacks.

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said the government is not able to handle its own data, but is trying to muzzle other organisations like during the farmers’ protest.

“It is quite clear that CoWIN data was breached, whether previously or now. The reality is that you cannot keep the data of Indians safe,” she told reporters.

“What is being done to secure the data of Indians?” she also asked.

As far as data breach is concerned, she said the government will have to tell the truth.

“How has the data been breached and to what extent? How was the government silent, as according to them a previous data was breached. It is quite clear that CoWIN data did breach, whether now or previously. Who is using this data? The government must tell the truth,” she said at a press conference.

Congress leader P Chidambaram also hit out at the government, saying he is appalled by the revelations about how Ashwini Vaishnaw runs his ministries.

“First, the Balasore tragedy. Obviously, the minister or his officers did not read the CAG Reports Nos. 22 and 23 submitted in December 2022 or the letter of the Principal Chief Operations Manager in February 2023.

“The massive leak of data from CoWin Portal exposed the claim that personal data of millions of Indians are safe and protected.

“The revelation that enormous pressure was put on Twitter to block or delete tweets/accounts and the threats to unleash the Income Tax department and arrest employees demolished the claim that the investigating agencies are independent,” he said on Twitter.

“Why do we need unelected so-called ‘experts’ to run these crucial ministries and heap misery on the people?” he asked in an apparent swipe at railway minister Vaishnaw.

The Congress on Monday demanded a high-level judicial probe into the entire data management apparatus of the government to identify the extent of the danger posed to the privacy of all Indians following claims of data breach on the CoWIN platform.

Congress General Secretary (Communications) Jairam Ramesh asked the government what immediate steps it is taking to secure the personal data of crores of Indians.