‘Cyber security is a matter of national security’

Published December 31, 2015
Ammar Jaffri speaks at the event on Wednesday.—White Star
Ammar Jaffri speaks at the event on Wednesday.—White Star

KARACHI: In order to come out of the state of flux with regard to cyber security initiatives in Pakistan, the state needs to look for an ‘imperative policy’ and try not to shoot the messenger by listening to the counter discussion taking place at present, said Barrister Zahid Jamil while speaking at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Wednesday.

An expert in the field of cyber security, Barrister Jamil simplified most of his talk for the audience so that they could better understand the terminologies.

He began by speaking about the history of the Internet, which the United States Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) helped create in 1973, and was initiated to interlink networks of various kinds.

“The basic concept of the Internet is that it can’t be entirely blocked or shut off, which many countries mistakenly try to do and fail,” he said.

Explaining challenges in respect of ensuring cyber security, Mr Jamil said that security could not be ensured by blocking websites and isolating a country globally.

“Take the example of YouTube. Pakistan blocked it in 2012 and yet I can assure you that many people sitting in this room can access it. There are too many proxies, and the state needs to understand that it can’t block all proxies,” he said.

He added that fighting cyber security did not mean to block or shut down the threat, rather it meant to fight that menace while making sure that the connectivity remained active.

“For instance,” he said, “if the water we are drinking is poisoned, we cannot shut down the accessibility of water for eternity. The state needs to ensure that we drink the water without the water poisoning the people.”

He added that the future of global connectivity was based on a trust mechanism and blocking meant that we wanted to keep the people ‘cyber illiterate’ by creating a ‘self-inflicted digital divide’.

If there was any institution that had an iota of understanding of cyber security, it was the military, he added.

He believed that the subject of cyber security, which is currently being dealt by ministry of information and technology, should be controlled by the ministry of defence or the interior ministry because “it is a national security issue”.

He added that Pakistan had not signed the cybercrime convention, also known as the Budapest Convention, which is a way to address internet crimes by seeking help from other nations.

From there the discussion went towards the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) in Pakistan.

Speaking about it, former additional director general with the Federal Investigation Agency and head of the National Response Centre for Cybercrime Ammar Jaffri said: “Efforts to properly build CERT were blocked through a proper planning. However, we need public/private partnership to make it work.”

He said that biggest challenge the state was facing at the moment was to listen to the counter argument.

“The regressive policies of 1950s and 60s won’t work when it comes to cyber security. We need experts who know about the cyber space to write more about it so that more people are aware of it and know about their rights.”

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2015

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