This week Ch. Nisar, Interior Minister of Pakistan, on a three-day official visit to the United Kingdom has asked for help to equip Pakistan with technical abilities to deal with cybercrimes. He also boasted about improvement in cybersecurity because of the cybercrimes legislation that makes it easy to monitor and control cybercrimes. The statement of Ch. Nisar is a dangerous one because, if he really thinks that cybercrimes legislation is helping us all then maybe he needs to have another look again at the cybersecurity situation of Pakistan
The Interior Minister’s statement is also a very bold one because of the fact that only a few days ago the website of Safe City Authority was hacked by Indian hackers. The safe city is a project started by the Punjab government to safeguard the city 24/7 by continuous monitoring through integrated command, control, and communication system (PPIC3). In the initial launch phase Punjab govt. spent a good amount of time stating that how it will revolutionize public safety in Pakistan, but they fail to see the irony that it is actually them who needs protection first.
Cyber attacks on our government websites is a recurring incident. In 2010, 36 govt. websites were hacked by Indian Cyber Army which also included websites of Pak Navy, National Accountability Bureau, Sindh Police among many others. With a tense relationship between Pakistan and India, the cyber attack from the neighboring country is a routine activity whereas no prevalent measures are present to prevent such acts. Earlier in January 2016, Pakistani hackers took control of our Federal Health Ministry website as a protest in the wake of Charsadda massacre. These incidents are a few that depicts how much serious the government is in regards to providing cybersecurity. How can the government which cannot even protect itself, can help the citizens in tackling the issues of cybercrimes and privacy invasion?
Pakistan has always been a victim of cybercrime and cybersecurity fails. Edward Snowden in his revelations stated that Pakistan is the second most spied upon country in the world. This means that all the information flow, in and out of Pakistan whether private or public, is available for the viewing pleasure of powerful countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Snowden also revealed that British secret department of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been monitoring Pakistan’s communication data. Also, a recent report in The Intercept claimed that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) allegedly spied on top civil-military leadership in Pakistan using malware codenamed SECONDDATE.
The country where we are in constant state of war to defeat terrorism, such revelations raises serious concerns about why the officials are permitting any state to spy on us and trample on our national sovereignty by neglecting the issue of cybersecurity. Snowden’s disclosure raises the question; are people who are supposed to protect us and the country from such threats unconsciously helping those who invade our privacy with lax measures pertaining to cybersecurity?
Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) and Cyber Crime Law are among the few initiatives shown by the government to address cybercrimes. But, the reality is that the government of Pakistan has a long way to go to create effective measures to prevent cybercrimes. Also, it has yet to form active measures that can be taken after such an incident to minimize the damage. Telecom and IT industry in Pakistan is playing its role in raising this issue by conducting conferences to raise awareness about the threats to
Telecom and IT industry in Pakistan is also playing its role in raising this issue by conducting various conferences to raise awareness about the threats to cybersecurity and how to act after such an incident. Besides raising awareness, it also needs to provide solutions to the problem because, with all of our lives infused with information technology and internet, cyber attack and violation of our privacy are the biggest threat that Pakistan faces after terrorism.