Aadhaar Virtual ID: The much-needed security layer to protect your biometric details

With growing concerns regarding the security of Aadhaar data, UIDAI has introduced a new Virtual ID to prevent data misuse.



  • Aadhaar Virtual ID aims to protect your biometric details.

  • The Virtual ID will replace 12-digit Aadhaar number with a 16-digit randomly generated number.

  • The Aadhaar Virtual ID will be issued starting March 2018.

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has unveiled a new security layer called ‘Virtual ID’ (VID) to protect your biometrics. This follows a series of reports concerning unauthorized access to Aadhaar biometrics recently. It’s designed to address privacy and security concerns over Aadhaar data.

Why was Aadhaar created?

Until now, when you wanted to open a bank account, apply for a new SIM card, loan or passport, you were required to furnish a handful of documents. These include your PAN card, electricity bill, telephone bill, ration card and more. Aadhaar was created to do away with the need for so many documents, and instead replace them with one document.

Aadhaar serves as an identity proof and an address proof, and it has details of your biometric data too, such as fingerprints and IRIS. And by linking your Permanent Account Number (PAN), bank account and other utility bills to Aadhaar, the service provider can fetch required details from there. So, for instance, if you are filing your income tax return, the I-T department can fetch all your details – such as PAN, bank account, address, and more from the Aadhaar number. In short, Aadhaar was created to ease the entire documentation process, while having all record of Indian citizens at one place.

Aadhaar for LPG subsidies

Currently, every household gets 12 LPG cylinders of 14.2kg each at subsidized rates in a year. If we look at the current rate of subsidized LPG cylinder, it costs around Rs 500. And, if a household needs more than 12 cylinders in a year, they need to buy the non-subsidized ones at market rate, which costs approximately Rs 750.

Indian households can get the government offered LPG subsidy, but for that an Aadhaar number is required, which in turn should be linked with your bank account. Upon furnishing these details with the oil company, the subsidy amount will be directly credited back in your linked bank account.

Increasing importance of Aadhaar

It’s no secret, the Aadhaar number has now become a mandatory document for almost everything. As mentioned above, whether you want to open a bank account, a demat account, file an income tax return, get a new SIM connection, get an admission in college, among others, an Aadhaar number is important. What’s more, even registering your profile on a matrimony site now needs the Aadhaar number to authenticate your identity.

Your Aadhaar number also needs to be linked to EPF account to get the employees provident funds benefits. As of recent figures, there are over 119 crore Aadhaar holders in India. Now, as all of this data is available online, stored in a secure cloud server, there are certain risks attached to it too. Nothing is foolproof, and with hackers sitting there, it’s just a matter of time till they find some loophole to gain access and steal the data. The thought itself is scary, and with that security of Aadhaar data becomes much more important.

Concerns and controversy over Aadhaar

One way to look at Aadhaar initiative, it is commendable considering it links all your data at one place. However, it also raises flags. Activists had their concerns over the privacy and security of data. Also, people who can access the data, they get all the information related to you. Say, for instance, your Aadhaar number is also linked with the hospital where you go for your routine check-up. When you go to mobile service providers to get a new SIM connection, during authentication, they would be able to look at your bank details, your address, biometric data and more.

In case of the I-T department, having access to this information could ease things for tax calculations. For instance, the department knows the salary you draw from your employer and the tax that has been deducted at source. It will also know about your additional income where you are required to give details of your PAN, and the amount that gets credited in your bank account. It will make tax computation easier, and even the government knows about the cash flow.

But these details falling in wrong hands could mean a disaster. And what if, a hacker gets an access to your IRIS and fingerprint data. It can be misused in any way we can’t possibly imagine too. These were the concerns raised by activists, but yet, Aadhaar was rolled out, and government promises it to be completely safe and secure.

Aadhaar data breach

Sure, Aadhaar details being safe and encrypted, it may not be easy to access them. But recently we came across reports where details of over a billion Aadhaar holders were sold for mere Rs 500. According to a report, anonymous sellers over WhatsApp were providing unrestricted access to details for any of the more than one billion Aadhaar numbers created in India.

The report further stated transferring money over Paytm to these agents, they would create a gateway with login ID and password. Using these details, you could enter any Aadhaar number and get details of that individual, including name, address, postal code (PIN), photo, phone number and email. And this information falling in wrong hands could be dangerous, which is why the government needs to take adequate measures to ensure safety and security of Aadhaar data of billions of Indian citizens.

Aadhaar USSD flaw

If that wasn’t enough, yet another flaw was recently discovered where you can easily get details of the linked bank account by dialing a USSD code from your smartphone. Ideally, it should work only from your registered mobile number, and after authenticating using an OTP, but the flaw lets anyone know about the linked bank account in a few simple steps.

Users simply need to dial *99*99*1#, then enter the 12-digit Aadhaar number and follow the on-screen instructions. It would show the details of the bank account liked with that Aadhaar number. With all these flaws, there needs a more secure way to keep our biometrics safe.

Aadhaar Virtual ID to safeguard your biometrics

“Aadhaar number being a permanent ID for life, there is a need to provide mechanism to ensure its continued use by the Aadhaar number holder while optimally protecting the collection and storage of Aadhaar number itself in many databases,” the UIDAI said. And after all these recent incidences, the UIDAI has no introduced Aadhaar Virtual ID to address the privacy and security concerns.

Right now, you need to give your 12-digit Aadhaar number to the service provider, who can then access all your details. With Virtual ID (VID), you will no longer need to give the 12-digital Aadhaar number, instead, you will have to share a 16-digit number (VID) which will be randomly generated.

The Virtual ID will be issued from March 2018, and it will become a mandatory tool from June 2018. An Aadhaar card holder will have to visit the UIDAI website to login and generate this 16-digit VID and then share it with the service provider. The benefit of this is that you won’t be actually sharing your 12-digit Aadhaar number, nor your biometrics. The service provider will only get access to the required details to authenticate you.

For instance, if you want a new SIM connection, the telecom operator will only get access to your name, photo and address. However, if you are applying for a passport, the authority will get access to all details, including biometric data, which is necessary. The Virtual ID, once created, can be used a number of times till the predefined validity. The user can also go online to change the virtual ID any number of times, as required.

Sure, Aadhaar Virtual ID seems like a step forward in securing your biometrics and other details. We will bring you all the details about how to login and create a Virtual ID, how to use it and more, as and when UIDAI officially rolls out.

  • Published Date: January 11, 2018 12:48 PM IST
  • Updated Date: January 11, 2018 12:48 PM IST