ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee was left surprised when the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) revealed that the biometric database of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has been hacked and compromised, resulting in challenge to tackle the increasing cybercrimes in the country.
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication was also astonished to hear from the parliamentary secretary from the ruling PTI member Kanwal Shauzab that the parliamentarians were traced through their SIMs for the joint session held last week.
The Committee which met with Ali Khan Jadoon in the chair on Thursday was informed that a Federal Minister Shireen Mizari was located through SIM named on her CNIC in Thatta, but she was present in Islamabad.
The parliamentary panel expressed serious concerns over the sale of illegal SIMs in the country, while terming it the root cause of all illegal activities and directed the FIA and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for taking stern actions against the individuals, franchises as well as cellular companies involved in this heinous crime.
Additional Director FIA cybercrime Wing informed the committee that the NADRA biometric database; however, the quantum hacked is yet to be identified. Hackers easily commit fraud by hacking biometric data. He further said that during a raid in Faisalabad 13,000 SIMs issued on fake CNICs were recovered.
He stated that the Wing had received 89,000 cybercrime complaints so far, and did not have the sufficient number of staff to address the complaints reported on a daily basis.
The FIA’s cybercrime Wing only has 162 investigation officers, he said.
He also told the NA body that whenever they trace culprits behind financial fraud cases, they usually turn out to be an elderly person or a woman, whose data is being used by the real culprits.
Chairman PTA Maj General Amir Azeem Bajwa (retired) informed the committee that the Authority does not allow any mobile phone company to sell door-to-door SIMs.
He further said that sales of illegal SIMs have dropped by 600 percent in one year, from 175,000 last year to 26,000 in October 2021. He admitted that peoples’ thumb impressions are taken illegally.
Bajwa said that all the CMOs have been directed to install Live Finger Detective (LFD) devices for issuance of SIMs.
He said that directions passed to the NADRA to do verification based on index fingers instead of thump impressions is under discussion between the PTA, the NADRA, and the CMOs for implementation.
Further, two CMOs have been penalised for violations (penalty of Rs100 million and Rs50 million imposed on CMPak and Ufone respectively).
The PTA chairman said 2,962 retailers terminated, 21 franchise staff terminated, 532 franchise were issued warning, Rs23.5 million penalties were imposed on franchises, 526,028 pre-emptive blocking of MSISDNs and blacklisted 360,569 CNICs as for new SIM sale.
The committee recommended for using multiple techniques to check the issues of issuance of illegal mobile SIMs, which have been a main factor in increasing cybercrimes in Pakistan.
The PTA chairman further informed the committee that the NADRA does not have any record/data regarding deceased persons.
Furthermore, at present no mechanism is available whereby the data of deceased persons could promptly be made available to the PTA for blocking of SIMs issued against their CNICs.
He said the PTA is ready to block the numbers within 24 hours, when the NADRA provide the list of CNICs of deceased persons.
The committee observed that government took all the stakeholders on board on social media rules except parliament.
Some parliamentarians termed the social media rules as ridiculous, while others asked government departments to open their doors for the public and getaway with bureaucratic attitude.
The committee stressed on keeping national interest and national perspective intact, while formulation of laws.
The member suggested that all rules be framed with due consideration of observation of public representatives.
The chair recommended for separate briefing on social media rules and also he stressed for taking public representative on board in this regard.
While responding to a briefing on National Cyber Security Policy, 2021, the committee unanimously stressed on all concerned for taking extra care for building firewalls to secure data especially, which is sensitive to national security and individuals’ privacy.
The committee also emphasised on its implementation.
The committee also recommended that Hackathon competition be held across the country to attract pool of IT expert among the youth as Pakistani youth is blessed with all kinds of talent.
The committee also discussed the visit of the speaker of the National Assembly to Azerbaijan and the issue of cooperation in the field of IT.
All goods are imported to Azerbaijan because only oil is produced there, said MNA Munnaza Hassan.
Azerbaijan is keen in “getting Pakistan’s cooperation in the IT sector. The IT trade with Azerbaijan has great potential,” she added.
Pakistan’s degree is not accepted in Azerbaijan and first of all, Pakistan’s degree should be recognised there.
The Ministry of IT officials informed that Pakistan’s export is worth over $2 billion.
Work is under way on Pakistani IT exports in new markets, including Azerbaijan, said Member IT.
The IT exports increased by 47 percent in the last financial year, however, there are skill challenges. Pakistan lacks manpower in the IT sector, said Member IT.
The committee stressed the need of enhancing IT export and facilitating IT exporters as it would prove as a catalyst for socio-economic development of the country.
The committee decided to call the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Higher Education Commission (HEC), and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to seek detail of provision of facilities for IT exporter firm in the country.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021