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Man arrested in Jharkhand after hacking Election Commission portal and issuing fake voter ID cards

A preliminary investigation has revealed that a URL shared by the EC with an outsourced private company was used in generating the voter ID cards. 

A 30-year-old man in Jharkhand’s Palamu district was nabbed by the police on August 17 for allegedly hacking the Election Commission’s website for issuing fake voter ID cards, as per a PTI report. This is the second such instance that has been reported in the past week. Four days ago, a man was arrested from the Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh for creating over 10,000 fake voter id cards. 

The accused, Mukesh Kumar, was arrested from Karso village in Chaonpur police station area on a complaint from the Election Commission. The case is being probed by a team of investigators including police officers and city officials. Palamu’s Deputy Commissioner Shashi Ranjan is also one of the investigators. 

Such incidents increase the risk of voter data manipulation and thus, have detrimental effects on elections. It assumes more importance since the EC is planning to issue digital voter IDs and accept e-KYC on the National Voters’ Services Portal. The government is also considering amending the law to ensure the linking of Voter IDs to Aadhaar which could lay the groundwork to require that all Electoral Photo ID Cards (EPIC) be linked to Aadhaar.  

More details about the incident and the accused

The PTI report revealed the following:

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  • The Palamu district administration was informed by EC that the URL used to generate voter identity cards from a Customer Service Point (CSP) in Chaunpur’s Korsa area was hacked and was used to issue fake voter identity cards. 
  • According to officials, the EC had outsourced the making of voter ID cards to a private company and given it a URL. The hacking was done with that URL. 
  • The police officials are yet to find any evidence of CSP’s involvement in the hacking
  • The accused, Kumar, told the investigators that the URL was given to him by a person from Ranchi and the URL was also shared with someone in Hazaribagh
  • Officials suspect that the arrested is a part of a network that has links in several districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

Election Commission’s response

In a press statement shared by the Election Commission, it said that both the incidents of EC portal hacking were linked to the same network. The statement read:

Assistant Electoral Roll Officers (AERO) are mandated to provide citizen-centric services including printing of Voter ID cards and timely distribution in line with the theme of “No voter to be left behind”. Data Entry Operator of one of the AERO office had illegally shared his user id password with a private unauthorized service provider in Saharanpur’s Nakud sub-division to print some Voter ID cards. Both these persons have been arrested.

A similar incident in UP

Medianama had reported a similar hacking incident in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district on August 13. The details of that case are :

  • The accused, Vipul Saini, created more than 10,000 fake voter IDs in a span of three months
  • He was paid around Rs. 100-200 per voter ID
  • His bank account, which contained Rs. 60 lakhs, was promptly frozen after his arrest. The source of this money is yet to be ascertained by the police
  • Two computers and hard drives were also seized from Saini’s home
  • Saini worked for a man called Armaan Malik from Madhya Pradesh
  • Authorities have sought the court’s permission to bring Saini to Delhi to interrogate him further and probe for links with any anti-national or terrorist forces.

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