India's Airtel dismisses data breach reports amid customer concerns

Airtel, India's second-largest telecom operator, on Friday denied any breach of its systems following reports of an alleged security lapse that has caused concern among its customers.

The telecom group, which also sells productivity and security solutions to businesses, said it had conducted a "thorough investigation" and found that there has been no breach whatsoever into Airtel's systems.

The telecom giant, which has amassed nearly 375 million subscribers in India, dismissed media reports about the alleged breach as "nothing short of a desperate attempt to tarnish Airtel's reputation by vested interests."

The company's statement follows unconfirmed reports of a potential data breach circulated in local outlets and social media, prompting worry among Airtel's subscriber base.

A purported data broker emerged on a known cybercrime forum this week, offering for sale the alleged personal information of approximately 375 million users, including phone numbers, email addresses, Aadhaar identification numbers and residential addresses.

Earlier this week, TechCrunch reviewed the data sample shared by the broker and found some discrepancies in its entries. Some security experts have also questioned the legitimacy of the alleged incident.

"We don't think it's an Airtel database. It seems it's an aggregated database of multiple databases, and the actor is trying to sell it as an Airtel database," Rahul Sasi, founder and CEO of cybersecurity startup CloudSEK, told TechCrunch, based on its analysis of the data sample.

Notably, the forum post was removed shortly after the incident was reported online. The forum also permanently blocked the broker's account as a suspect of "scamming."