A computer error by the Colombian Foreign Ministry made the visas of some 550,000 foreigners public

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Apparently, the Foreign Ministry had no knowledge of the technical failure. Photo: Gesticol. Reference.

The information of about 550 thousand foreigners residing in Colombia was vulnerable for an indeterminate time. Just this Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took steps to fix the glitch.

The digital medium La Silla Vacía revealed that a European citizen, who received a work visa in the country, received a link to view his document online. Simply cBy changing the final numbers, he could have access to download the documents of other foreigners in the country.

This failure would take place because the digital visa is attached to a QR code, like that of pandemic restaurants, and this generates a link that opens in a search engine. Said URL, without prior validation, includes the six digits of the visa and offers the download of the document. These documents have sensitive data such as nationality, photographs, passport number, company where they work and the visa status they have.

This would be equivalent to having a record of information with the identity cards or documents, which is serious for the safety of the exposed persons. Among the foreigners, The complaining media found documents of minors with their faces and personal information.

The man, who decided not to reveal his identity due to having a recent visa and not wanting problems in the exercise of his work, verified if, by changing the data, he could have access to another person’s documents. In the process, found three other visas.

Faced with the problem, the subject wrote an email to Benavides River, who serves as director of Migration and Consular Affairs. According to the digital media, the man did not get an answer to the problem that he claimed he could not tolerate.

Given this, the Empty Chair informed last Thursday directly to Francisco Echeverri, Vice Chancellor, the serious problem in the entity’s systems. The official promised to alert the area in charge. Benavides, the same one who did not respond, informed him in the middle hours later that the technological direction would be aware of the issue.

A few hours ago, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement about the issue that worried the foreign citizen. According to the Ministry, it was identified a flaw in the information system of the Colombian electronic visa platform”. According to the entity, from the moment the situation became known, “The Department of Information and Technologies of the Chancellery has worked to solve the impasse and it will be overcome as soon as possible.”

According to Jorge Amarís told La Silla Vacía, a lawyer who worked with Colombian consulates, this is a vulnerability in the Colombian information system. “With this information a fraud can be made, obviously things can be complicated for the owner, such as impersonation and extortion”, Indian.

On the morning of this Saturday there have also been voices of rejection of the publication of La Silla Vacía, since it published the method to obtain the visas before the failure was fixed, which, according to some of its own readers, could encourage criminals to gain access to such documents when the platform was still vulnerable.

Chancellery and visas

The Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has had to respond to complaints from foreign journalists who, according to them, and with the support of voices such as Congresswoman Katherine Miranda and the Foundation for Press Freedom, were stripped of their work visas.

“The Foreign Ministry confirms that it respects freedom of expression and information and recognizes the fundamental role of journalists and the media in democracy. Colombia is a country open to the presence of journalists of all nationalities who can fully carry out their work in the national territory ”, the Ministry stressed in the statement.

However, in conversation with W Radio, Jonathan Bock, executive director of FLIP, denounced that several journalists have been denied work permits and visas to practice the profession in the country. According to Bock, no concrete response was obtained from the ministry in charge to justify the denial of the documents.


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Ben Oakley
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