Karnataka: UIDAI in denial of crucial hardware theft

As a theft in UIDAI data centre has implications to national security, DH sought to know what steps the agency has taken to trace the missing devices
Last Updated 23 February 2022, 01:12 IST

Several hard disks, memory cards, servers and other devices were stolen from the “high security” Aadhaar Data Centre in Hebbal more than a year ago but the UIDAI, already battling cases of data theft, has strangely not filed a complaint.

On September 17, 2021, the Kodigehalli police registered an FIR stating that 104 hard disks, 20 CPUs, 108 memory cards were missing from the 3rd floor of the UIDAI’s data centre building. In addition, several rack servers, blade servers, network switches, 17 airflow guides and one system board were either missing or suffered damage.

Interestingly, UIDAI didn’t file the complaint but a manager of HP Enterprises India who supplied the devices did.

Though the theft happened in its building, the UIDAI did not file a complaint. Instead, it denied the theft altogether.

On January 13, DH sent a set of queries to the deputy director-general and three other officers of the UIDAI’s regional office in Bengaluru.

As a theft in UIDAI data centre has implications to national security, DH sought to know what steps the agency has taken to trace the missing devices.

Replying to the mail on January 14, UIDAI deputy director Ashok Lenin said no such incident has happened.

“There was no such theft from our office; therefore we are unable to answer your queries.”

Besides the denial, the entire incident has been kept under wraps with the police not providing a copy of the FIR even when a request was filed under the RTI Act.

However, a senior police officer said they have nothing to hide. “They have their own security. The whole facility is secured by them. After that, they have no clue. It is true that they want to keep it confidential,” he said.

DH accessed a copy of the FIR against “unknown” persons. The FIR said the theft of Rs 2-crore worth items took place between October 5, 2020, and September 17, 2021, and listed the missing items.

“The process of installing the devices was still pending and the theft came to light during the review of the UIDAI building,” the summary of the complaint stated.

Another officer noted that it would be impossible for an outsider to break into the data centre. “Even officials visiting the centre have to go through several checks. The possibility of a thief entering the premises, let alone accessing the third floor, is ruled out,” the officer said, refusing to speak further on the issue.

UIDAI has come under the scanner over cases of data theft. The authority had admitted that data of 7.8 crore people in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh was illegally accessed by an IT firm. The Madras High Court is hearing a case about BJP accessing the Aadhaar data to profile voters in Puducherry.

A retired officer of the ACP rank said the theft in Bengaluru needs to be taken seriously even if the devices were not storing the data.

“The theft has been committed by someone who has sound knowledge of the building and is equipped with the necessary technical knowledge. The data centre was a fortress guarded by central security forces (CISF). It will be interesting to see what the police can do other than filing an FIR. Why UIDAI, which found the theft while reviewing the building, did not file the complaint is anyone’s guess. Officials have to come clean on the matter, which involves a building that stores the data of crores of people,” he said.

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(Published 22 February 2022, 18:59 IST)

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