In a case of Set a thief to catch a thief, Indian police in Bengaluru are so impressed by the hacker they arrested last week that they have offered to hire him.
Bengaluru’s Central Crime Branch police had arrested Abhinav Srivastav (31), a software engineer working in Ola’s head office at Koramangala, in connection with a complaint filed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) against him and Qarth Technologies.
Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identity number issued to all Indian residents. UIDAI Authorities have been extremely cagey over its data given recent privacy threats and activist cases going up to Indian supreme court. The complaint alleged that Srivastav has developed a mobile app containing Aadhaar-related information, which is hosted in the National Informatics Centre server, and he illegally used it to support the application. By exposing private information of Indian citizens, Srivastav has committed a very serious crime, UIDAI said.
A graduate of the prestigious IIT Kharagpur, Srivastav got an M.Sc in Industrial Chemistry and specialized in computer and network security. He founded a startup, Qarth Technologies in 2012, which was acquired by Indian ride-sharing giant, Ola in March last year.
Srivastav developed an app called Aadhar KYC and hosted it on Google Play. As per him, the intent was to enable individuals to access their personal Aadhaar-related and was not meant for others to access the data en masse. It was estimated that Srivastava had earned ₹40,000 from revenues generated by advertisements on his app.
During his investigation, Srivastav demonstrated how the absence of Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) from the URL helped him hack into Aadhaar e-hospital website. HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol). Srivastava claimed that his intentions were innocent.
“I developed the app giving out e-KYC details, thinking it would help the common man access Aadhaar information. I had no other intention,” he told the police.
Bangalore Police were sufficiently impressed by Srivastava’s tech and hacking prowess. While under custody, Srivastava had given a six hour long hacking demo to the police.
“He can access Mac like mad,” a senior cybercrime official was quoted saying.“We are unable to keep pace with his swiftness in cracking and breaking into web portals.”
Srivastava has also expressed an interest in helping the police with the cybercrime cases that are piling up in police stations. Prior to his arrested Abhinav was earning about 42 lakh rupees per annum. A government job doesn’t pay as much so the Police might opt to hire as a consultant on a need basis.