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The government ministries/institutions provided with internet and inexpensive data hosting services by private service providers are prone to cyber threats, revealed National Telecommunications Corporation (NTC).

Some government's institutions prefer cheap private service providers for data hosting compared to the NTC and most of the time their websites are hacked, revealed Managing Director NTC Brigadier Viqar Rashid Khan (retd) as well as other senior officials while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication.

The committee met with Rubina Khalid in the chair here on Thursday where a briefing was given on the NTC functioning, achievements and future roadmap.

The NTC officials said that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has allowed private companies to provide internet services to the government institutions, which is one of the biggest cyber threats in the country. The websites of those government institutions, which are hosted by private sectors due to less charges compared to the NTC, are being targeted and hacked, the officials added.

Since Pulwama incident, 50 million attacks were reported on the NTC data system, but due to foolproof arrangements of five layers, the data remained safe.

The managing director informed the committee that taking internet services by the government institutions from private service providers is one of the biggest cyber threats. Further the websites of those government institutions are being hacked, the data of which are being hosted by private companies. Replying to a question, the NTC official said that the NTC is charging more than private companies for data hosting, but it (NTC) is providing foolproof security which private companies lack.

As per the act, the mandate of NTC is to provide telecom services to the government departments including defense forces whereas the PTCL will provide telecom services in the private sector.

The NTC managing director also raised questions over the submarine cables under the control of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL). He said that submarine cable is the asset of Pakistan which is being held by the PTCL, as it is taken over by Dubai-based Etisalat after privatization. Khan said that submarine cable should have been handed over to the NTC at the time of PTCL privatization.

He further said that the NTC has planned to lay marine cable along China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on coastal highway.

The NTC officials informed that with a cost of Rs 450 million, data center was established in 2016, which has five layer security arrangements. During the last three years, data center generated Rs 419 million revenue. He further said that third party security audit of the data centre was conducted.

The portal of Kamyab Jawan Program is being hosted by the NTC, which was visited by 10.6 million people during the last one week and 0.3 million people applied for the scheme. Around 18 million cyber attacks were made on the portal mostly from India but data remained safe.

The committee was further informed that Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) for existing data center would be established by December 31, 2019. The committee expressed satisfaction over the NTC security arrangements to avoid cyber attacks, but also stressed for more steps to ensure foolproof security of data as the next war would be cyber war.

The committee was informed that the NTC and VMware International have signed a VMware cloud provider program (VCPP). This agreement is first of its nature in Pakistan with public sector organization by world's largest network of validated cloud services based on VMware technology. It enables the NTC to deploy on-premises cloud setup in NTC National Data Center and subsequently to become secured G-cloud (Government Cloud) provider thus ensuring security of data and generating huge revenue.

The NTC officials informed the committee that its revenue was Rs 3.9 billion and expenditure remained Rs 3.827 billion during 2018-19.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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