According to the ministry, the COWIN portal of the Health Ministry is completely safe with adequate safeguards for data privacy
According to some media, there have been reports claiming the breach of data of beneficiaries who have received covid vaccination in the country, on some social media platforms. These reports allege a breach of data from the COWIN portal of the Union Health Ministry, which is the repository of all data of beneficiaries who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Certain posts on the social media platform Twitter have claimed using a Telegram (online messenger application) BOT, the personal data of individuals who have been vaccinated is being accessed. It is reported that the BOT has been able to pull individual data by simply passing the mobile number or Aadhaar number of a beneficiary.
It is clarified that all such reports are without any basis and are mischievous. The COWIN portal of the Health Ministry is completely safe with adequate safeguards for data privacy. Furthermore, security measures are in place on the COWIN portal, with Web Application Firewall, Anti-DDoS, SSL/TLS, regular vulnerability assessment, Identity & Access Management etc. Only OTP authentication-based access to data is provided. All steps have been taken and are being taken to ensure the security of the data in the CoWIN portal.
COWIN was developed and is owned and managed by MoH&FW. An Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration (EGVAC) was formed for steering the development of COWIN and for deciding on policy issues. Former CEO National Health Authority (NHA), chaired EGVAC which also included members from MoH&FW and MeitY.
Co-WIN data access – At present individual level vaccinated beneficiary data access is available at three levels, as below:
- Beneficiary dashboard- The person who has been vaccinated can have access to the Co-WIN data through the use of a registered Mobile number with OTP authentication.
- Co-WIN authorised user- The vaccinator with the use of an authentic login credential provided can access the personal level data of vaccinated beneficiaries. But the COWIN system tracks & keeps a record of each time an authorized user accesses the COWIN system.
- API-based access – The third-party applications that have been provided authorised access to Co-WIN APIs can access the personal-level data of vaccinated beneficiaries only through beneficiary OTP authentication.
Telegram BOT –
- Without OTP vaccinated beneficiaries’ data cannot be shared with any BOT.
- Only the Year of Birth (YOB) is captured for adult vaccination but it seems that on media posts it has been claimed that BOT also BOT mentioned the date of Birth (DOB).
- There is no provision to capture the address of the beneficiary.
The development team of COWIN has confirmed that there are no public APIs where data can be pulled without an OTP. In addition to the above, there are some APIs which have been shared with third parties such as ICMR for sharing data. It is reported that one such API has a feature of sharing the data by calling using just a mobile number of Aadhaar. However, even this API is very specific and the requests are only accepted from a trusted API which has been white-listed by the Co-WIN application.
Union Health Ministry has requested the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) to look into this issue and submit a report. In addition, an internal exercise has been initiated to review the existing security measures of CoWIN.
CERT-In in its initial report has pointed out that the backend database for the Telegram bot was not directly accessing the APIs of the COWIN database.