The Philippines’ Foreign Ministry has disabled its passport application tracking portal, after reports that thousands of applicants’ details had somehow become visible in Google searches.
In a statement on its website, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) said on Wednesday that it had taken down the online passport tracker and all its sources to “avoid further data broadcasting.”
It allows passport applicants to see the status of their application. The portal was established in September. DFA stated that its IT division was looking into the cause of the incident, and added that it would conduct an internal audit to ensure there are no repeats.
Local media outlets report that a “misconfiguration issue” was behind the leak of thousands of users’ personally identifiable information. Manila Bulletin reported Tuesday that the paper was contacted by someone who found the data during a Google Search.
After clicking a search result, the person was reportedly redirected to the portal’s blank tracking system form. He told the paper the privacy issue appeared to have stemmed from the developers’ “hard-coding”Access to sensitive data was possible by anyone using any regular web browser.
He also criticised the developers for using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to create a database. Manila Bulletin said that this was not acceptable. “sound programming practice.”The paper also raised concerns about the availability of an authentication key, which allowed everyone to view the spreadsheets.
Besides alerting the DFA, the paper said it had notified the country’s National Privacy Commission about the possible large-scale data leak. According to the DFA, the agency stated it is working with the watchdog in order to solve the problem.
In May, media outlets reported that some 345,000 sensitive court documents from the Philippines’ Office of the Solicitor General had been freely available online for at least two months. According to reports, the information was available online for at least two months. “could have been accessed by anyone who knew where to look.”
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