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Hacker Elliot Alderson explains privacy flaws in Aarogya Setu app; claims five unwell at PMO

Aarogya Setu app privacy issue: Hacker Elliot Alderson says that the anyone can access the internal database and that anyone can see who is sick anywhere in India, which violates privacy

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | May 7, 2020 | Updated 10:22 IST
Hacker Elliot Alderson explains privacy flaws in Aarogya Setu app; claims 5 unwell at PMO
Coronavirus news: Elliot Alderson explains why Aarogya Setu has flaws

Ethical hacker Elliot Alderson who first flagged the privacy concerns in the coronavirus contact tracing app Aarogya Setu explained the security flaws in a blog. He further stated that based on the flaws, he could figure out that five people at the PMO and two at the Indian Army Headquarters in Delhi felt unwell. He explained that the Aarogya Setu app is not supposed to disclose a corona patient's location but merely tell the user that there are cases around him.

On Wednesday, Alderson published a blog and stated why he thinks the app has security flaws. The two main concerns he points out is that anyone can access the internal database and that anyone can see who is sick anywhere in India, which violates privacy.

Also read: Coronavirus India Live Updates: Total cases past 50,000; PM Modi delivers key address, lauds COVID-19 warriors

"With only 1 click, an attacker can open any app internal file, including the local database used by the app called fight-covid-db," he says in his blog. He says that he spent less than two hours to figure out the flaws. He found that an activity called WebViewActivity was acting unusually and upon researching found that the activity has no host validation at all. He said he then tried to open an internal file, which opened up easily. He alleges that the flaw was "quietly fixed" by the developers.

The second flaw he says is a privacy one. Alderson says that anyone can manipulate the location and distance at the backend. On the app, one can scan an area of 500m, 1km, 2km, 5km or 10km radius.The French hacker said, "The 1st thing I tried was to modify the location to see if I was able to get information anywhere in India. The 2nd thing was to modify the radius to 100kms to see if I was able to get info with a radius which is not available in the app. As you can see in the previous screenshot, I set my location to New Delhi and set the radius to 100kms and it worked!"

"Thanks to this endpoint an attacker can know who is infected anywhere in India, in the area of his choice. I can know if my neighbour is sick for example. Sounds like a privacy issue for me," he added.

He explained that based on the flaws he could figure out that five people felt unwell at the PMO office, two at the Indian Army Headquarters, one person was infected at the Indian parliament and three at the Home Office.

Also read: Aarogya Setu app responds to hacker Elliot Alderson's privacy concerns; says no data at risk

Alderson stated that the app is not supposed to tell you the location of corona patients. "The first issue is a security issue and the second is a privacy issue. If you don't care about privacy, fine for you but it's still a privacy issue," he said.

"I took the time to write this article for two reasons: I want to be transparent. You have all the info, even the technical info. Sharing is caring. Maybe it will give ideas to other bug bounty hunters and security lovers in general," he tweeted after releasing the explanation.

On May 5, Alderson took to social media to tell the Aarogya Setu app that there are security flaws in their platform that puts the data of 90 million Indians at risk. Soon after the tweet, Aarogya Setu took to Twitter to respond to the privacy flaws criticism and stated that no user's data was at risk.

Also read: BT BUZZ: MHA order to make Aarogya Setu mandatory weak on legal ground

Also read: Coronavirus crisis: Despite privacy concerns, govt may make Aarogya Setu App mandatory

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