Airtel denies reports of customer data being compromised

A day earlier, unverified reports claimed that data of up to 375 million Airtel customers, including phone numbers, email addresses, and Aadhaar numbers, were being sold on the dark web – a part of the internet that can be accessed only through specialised software.
Airtel
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Bharti Airtel – one of India‘s leading telecom service providers – denied the news of its database being compromised. Following allegations that Airtel’s customer data, which includes sensitive information of almost 375 million users, was allegedly hacked and put up for sale on the dark web, the company said that it launched an investigation and found no breach in its systems.

In a statement issued on Friday, July 5, the company said, “There has been a report alleging that Airtel customer data has been compromised. This is nothing but a desperate attempt to tarnish Airtel’s reputation by vested interests. We have done a thorough investigation and can confirm that there has been no breach whatsoever from Airtel systems.”

A day earlier, unverified reports claimed that data of up to 375 million Airtel customers, including phone numbers, email addresses, and Aadhaar numbers, were being sold on the dark web – a part of the internet that can be accessed only through specialised software. It offers anonymity to the users and is infamously used by criminals to carry out illegal activities, including drug trafficking, illegal arms sales, etc.

The hacker, who identified themself as ‘xenZen’, listed the database on a dark web forum, demanding $50,000. The hacker claimed that the data was stolen earlier this month, and to prove his claim, he shared a sample of the data. Following this, concerned netizens flagged the issue, prompting the company to initiate an investigation into the issue.

Hyderabad-based cyber security expert Srinivas Kodali who reported the incident on X (formerly Twitter) told TNM, "The computer emergency response team (CERT), the regulatory body under the Union Ministry of Electronics and IT, meant to deal with cyber security incidents has not been able to manage several such threats. Not being able to ensure protection of data, could severely affect our data privacy,” he said.

This is not the first time that cyber security experts have reported about Airtel’s alleged data breach. In 2021, cybersecurity researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia claimed that data of over 2.5 million Airtel customers were being sold on the dark web. However, the company denied the allegations then too.

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