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FO to seek ISI help for protecting itself from hackers

Published May 06, 2016 06:39am

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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office will engage the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for protecting itself from hackers following cyber attacks over the past 18 months.

The foreign ministry has sought an allocation of Rs80 million in the next fiscal year’s budget for bolstering cyber-security and securing its communications with the country’s missions overseas, an official told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.

The money sought for cyber security is 130 per cent more than the additional expenditure that the FO intends to incur on boosting the physical protection of its premises, which is Rs35 million.

The job will be done by “our premier security agency”, the official said in a reference to ISI.

The move comes as the FO strives to counter potential attacks in cyberspace by strengthening its readiness strategy. FO systems have over the past 18 months faced three major attacks. Paucity of resources has been identified as one of the reasons behind poor security arrangements of FO’s IT infrastructure.

The request for ramping up expenditure on cyber security implies both a renewed resolve to keep hackers out and a realisation that previous efforts proved to be insufficient.

“We have firewalls in place and our staff is regularly monitoring the situation, but we are continuously under cyber attack … our website, our emails, our servers have faced attacks,” the official explained to the senators.

“We have our own security system, but it is always good to get help from those who are experts,” the official said in response to a query from a member as he acknowledged the inadequacy of the existing internal arrangements.

The FO has already used the services of ISI for the security audit of its IT systems.

The official said that ISI might outsource part of the job to its “security cleared contractors”, because they too did not have a complete in-house facility. But, the FO by itself had never used private firms for this purpose, he added.

Some of the committee members had strong reservations on ISI being given the job.

Trying to address the members’ reservations, the official said ISI, despite being given the responsibility for fixing cyber security shortcomings, would only have “limited access”.

“They cannot ingress our system, but only check from outside,” he maintained adding the different departments had different encryption codes.

The government-run IT and Telecom services provider, National Telecommunication Corporation (NTC), provides internet service to FO. However, because of its poor services, a private company was hired for the new building, whereas many officers also use their private connections, which increases the vulnerability of the system.

FO officials, in private conversations with this correspondent, said that the foreign ministry should focus on “cyber-functionality” before beefing up the security.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2016

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Comments (15) Closed



Uzair May 06, 2016 08:07am

ISI has a great pool of resources, good that foreign office will be using them.

salahuddin May 06, 2016 08:56am

foreign ministry and our diplomats are really doing some thing to be hacked? I doubt,seeing the miserabke state of our foreign affairs.

Salahuddin May 06, 2016 09:02am

For God's sake do some thing yourself as well.Don't we have enough IT specialists to be hired for this.Calling a premier spy agency for a petty job speaks volumes of our incompetence

Salahuddin May 06, 2016 09:02am

For God's sake do some thing yourself as well.Don't we have enough IT specialists to be hired for this.Calling a premier spy agency for a petty job speaks volumes of our incompetence

AH May 06, 2016 09:13am

This govt. cannot run by its own without help of ARMY whether it comes to catching criminals, saving people from natural disastrous, running Census, etc etc. It's because they transfer Pakistan's money overseas no matter how.

Zak May 06, 2016 09:15am

Pakistanis around the world who have skills can help too.

Broken May 06, 2016 09:38am

we dont have civilian IT agencies and institutions? We have to rely on Armed forces spy agency for that??

Dove May 06, 2016 10:57am

FO in particular and S Asia in general should think of how to deal with the spying equipment attached to the undersea cable by all Europe intelligence agencies. They filter and view everything we do on our internet!

Skeptic May 06, 2016 10:55am

There is no such thing as 'fool proof' system. Even U.S. Pentagon and major companies with seemingly 'very secure' networks with 128-bit encryption have been hacked.

And those who can offer services to protect your system form hackers, also know how to leave holes in the system so it can be penetrated by hackers - sometimes, themselves!

Abid Hafeez May 06, 2016 11:42am

To protect their network, they should use their own VPN (virtual private network). This is a kind of network which can not be attacked by hackers.p

Abid Hafeez May 06, 2016 11:57am

To protect their network, they should use their own VPN (virtual private network). This is a kind of network which can not be attacked by hackers.

ali May 06, 2016 12:09pm

they should trust civilians as well.. we have less security experts because of situations like these, they don't get hired here.

Riaz Ahmad May 06, 2016 03:35pm

Apart from looting and plundering, can the corrupt and incompetent political and bureaucratic set up do anything themselves.

Adnan May 06, 2016 04:14pm

Why not FO hire IT professional's for this job.

Ayub May 08, 2016 06:03am

ISI is more reliable and competent to monitor the activities of the persons of the foreign ministry and control leakage of important information.