Hacker steals government ID database for Argentina’s entire population

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A hacker has breached the Argentinian government’s IT network and stolen ID card details for the country’s entire population.

The hack took place last month and targeted RENAPER, the Registro Nacional de las Personas (National Registry of Persons).

The agency is an important part of the the Argentinian Interior Ministry and issues national ID cards to all citizens.

The data it stores in digital format is accessible to other government agencies. It also acts as a backbone for most government queries for citizens’ personal information.

When the Argentina data breach took place

The first evidence that someone breached RENAPER surfaced earlier this month on Twitter.

A newly registered account named @AnibalLeaks published ID card photos and personal details for 44 Argentinian celebrities.

A day after he published images and personal on Twitter, the hacker posted on a well-known hacking forum. He offered to look up the personal details of any Argentinian user, throwing down the gauntlet.

Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero headline items in breach

This included details for the country’s president Alberto Fernández, multiple journalists and political figures, and even data for footballing superstars Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.

Much was made of this on Argentinian forums and hacking websites.

Faced with a media fallout following the Twitter leaks, the government confirmed a security breach 3 days later.

In an October 13 press release, the Ministry of Interior said its security team discovered that a VPN account assigned to the Ministry of Health was used to query the RENAPER database for 19 photos “in the exact moment in which they were published on the social network Twitter.”

Officials added that “the [RENAPER] database did not suffer any data breach or leak” and authorities are now investigating eight government employees about having a possible role in the leak.

Lionel Messi crying because his data was breached
Lionel Messi – possibly reacting to his data being stolen

Hacker plans to sell and leak the data

Cybersecurity website The Record contacted the individual who was renting access to the RENAPER database on hacking forums. The hacker told the website that they have a copy of the RENAPER data, contradicting the government’s official statement.

The individual proved their statement by providing personal details, including the highly sensitive “Trámite number”, of an Argentinian citizen of the website’s choosing.

“Maybe in a few days I’m going to publish [the data of] 1 million or 2 million people,” the RENAPER hacker told The Record. They said that they plan to continue selling access to this data to all interested buyers.

When The Record shared a link to the government’s press release in which officials blamed the intrusion on a possibly compromised VPN account, the hacker simply replied “careless employees yes,” perhaps indirectly confirming the point of entry.

According to a sample provided by the hacker online, the information they have access to now includes:

  • Full names
  • Home addresses
  • Birth dates
  • Gender info
  • ID card issuance and expiration dates
  • Labour identification codes
  • Trámite numbers
  • Citizen numbers
  • Government photo IDs.

Argentina currently has an estimated population of more than 45 million, though it is unclear how many entries are in the database.

This is the second major security breach in the country’s history after the Gorra Leaks in 2017 and 2019. On those occasions, hacktivists leaked the personal details of Argentinian politicians and police forces.

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia. An emerging thought leader in cybersecurity, Ahmed is an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and regularly contributes to cybersecurity conversations in Australia. As well as his extensive background as a security advisor to large Australian enterprises, he is a regular keynote speaker and guest lecturer on offensive cybersecurity topics and blockchain.

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