How the hysteria about phones ‘hacked’ to add Aadhaar helpline number was spread

Yesterday there was massive brouhaha on Social Media about the Aadhaar helpline number mysteriously appearing on people’s contact list. There were concerns raised about the security of data and how the UIDAI could possibly access people’s phonebooks and add the helpline number without requisite permission or authorisation.

Many took to Twitter including security experts to talk about the helpline number appearing on phones. The French security researcher claimed that it was “surprising and interesting” that the Aadhaar helpline number was added to people’s contact list.

Alderson had not made any assertions of phones being “hacked” to feed the helpline number. However, soon many journalists and news agencies jumped on the bandwagon and claimed that phones have been “hacked” nationally and that this was “bizarre”.

- Advertisement - - Article resumes -

Times Now did a story that claimed that “Androids have been hacked nationally”.

Other journalists too, toed the same line.

Journalists spread rumours far and wide. Even Nidhi Razdan jumped into the mix to say that the numbers were appearing on iPhone as well.

This fear mongering also found its way to WhatsApp, ironically, right when the mainstream media has been discussing WhatsApp being used to spread panic.

Soon, UIDAI clarified that it had not asked any service provider or even Android to include the helpline numbers.

UIDAI also mentioned that the toll-free number was “invalid and outdated”.

Unfortunately, patience isn’t a virtue in journalism anymore and evidently, neither is research.

Upon investigating further, we found a tweet from a tech analyst and IT security expert from 2016 that claimed that phone makers were starting to hard code Aadhaar/UIDAI toll-free number in the contact list. He provided screenshots of the number being added on a MotoG4.

Turns out, the mass hysteria could have been averted if journalists had just done a little more research. Prasanna’s assertions back in 2016 turned out to be true when Google tweeted their clarification and apologised

The Google explanation said that since 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress number was coded into the Setup Wizard of Andriod and have remained there since. Google assured that it was not the case of any unauthorised access and apologised for any inconvenience caused. They also reiterated that users can manually delete the number if they so choose and that they are working towards fixing the upcoming version of the Setup Wizard.

Eventhough UIDAI too issued an explanation, their statement was misinterpreted by some to mean that UIDAI was disowning the number and saying that it wasn’t a toll-free helpline of Aadhaar to begin with.

UIDAI had mentioned that their new helpline was active for the past 2 years and that the number which was fed into the phone was invalid and no longer in use. Considering Google mentioned that the number was coded into the phone in 2014, the fact that UIDAI now uses a different helpline number for the past 2 years is not far-fetched.

There were also people who complained of the number mysteriously appearing on the Apple phones.

While Google explained how it was coded into the Android devices, it also mentioned that since the numbers get listed in the contacts list, it can get transferred to any new device through contacts considering Android users use Gmail to sync their contacts.

While Google has published a detailed explanation, one would imagine that the fear mongering could have been averted by more research considering news of the numbers being coded into the phone were strife from at least 2016.

Share and Support:
Support OpIndia by paying for content

Most read articles recently

Ghaziabad: Stray dog, mother of five puppies, raped and dragged to death by Nafees and Tauseef

Nafees, one of the accused, has reportedly confessed to the crime of raping the animal several times before dragging her through the streets

Here is what connects attack on Akshaya Patra, French NGO against Rafale and demonization of Amarnath Yatra

The web of foreign-funded NGOs that demonised the Amarnath Yatra, French NGO that complained against Rafale in France and the demand to remove Akshaya Patra from midday meals contract

Activist opposing Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal contract thinks ‘Brahmins obstruct India’s development’

The Akshaya Patra has come under criticism recently for not including onion and garlic in its mid-day meals for school children.

All you need to know about Congress’ Chhattisgarh CM elect: Bhupesh Baghel, who was once jailed in sex CD case

Congress leader and Chhattisgarh CM elect Bhupesh Baghel is currently out on bail in sleaze video case

Rajasthan Police ends up declaring a true incident as ‘fake news’ on Twitter

In a video being widely shared, a person can be heard complaining about 'Aurangzeb Rule' in Rajasthan and the people sharing the video claim it is from Utambar, Rajasthan.

Zee News issues defamation notice of Rs 1000 crore to Congress leader Navjot Singh Singh

Sidhu had allegedly threatened the Zee News when he had said “nani yaad dila denge” after Zee News had shown a video ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans were raised at an election rally

#GoBackSonia trends on Twitter ahead of Sonia Gandhi’s Tamil Nadu visit to inaugurate Karunanidhi’s statue

Twitter is abuzz with #GoBackSonia trend as Sonia Gandhi is going to Chennai to inaugurate the statute of DMK founder Karunanidhi.

Prashant Bhushan and left-liberal cabal was actively helping Vijay Mallya in UK court by attacking CBI special director Rakesh Asthana

Vijay Mallya's defence team was using Indian left-liberals' allegations agaist Rakesh Asthana in London court

Pakistan uses Congress leader and ‘liberal’s’ arguments to undermine PM Modi yet again

Aiyar, who is known to make controversial statements, spoke about the 'Rafale scam' and how it has dented Prime Minister Modi's clean image in India. He also claimed there was rampant corruption within the NDA government.

The Prince and his dilemma: A short story

The prince wanted to choose buddy boy Jo, for he was a fellow prince too.

Latest articles

Connect with us

125,755FansLike
98,173FollowersFollow
6,353SubscribersSubscribe

Don't miss these