LAHORE: Despite passage of a year and a half since enactment of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016, the federal government has been unable to establish a forensic laboratory or a court headed by judges trained in cyber offences, showing how serious it is in dealing with rising crimes in the cyber world.

Besides, the government has also completely failed to make any effort towards international cooperation under this law to combat cyber crimes.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has written to the federal government requesting it to fulfil its commitment in this regard without further delay otherwise mere enactment of the law could not help deal with rising cyber crimes.

Under the Act, the federal government was to establish a forensic laboratory “independent of the investigation agency”. Under Section 44 of the Act, a special court headed by judges who were duly trained in cyber forensics, electronic transactions and data protection was also supposed to be sanctioned.

“Similarly, sections 6, 7 and 8 (of the Act) are related to unauthorised access, transmission or interference with critical infrastructure but the government has not yet designated any infrastructure or information system or asset/facility as critical infrastructure which has rendered these sections completely useless,” an official told Dawn on Sunday.

He said the government had also been unable to establish a computer emergency response team (CERT) under Section 49 of the ACT and could not make serious efforts toward international cooperation under Section 42, thus leaving the cyber crime wings virtually without weaponry to fight.

The FIA has also drawn the government’s attention towards some flaws in the PECA. “This Act has provided lenient punishments to some of very serious cyber offences -- hacking and spamming (only three months in jail and Rs50,000 fine). The business community that suffers huge losses due to hackers and spammers has expressed serious concern over this,” the official said, adding Section 11 pertained to hate speech that advanced interfaith, sectarian and racial hatred posing a very serious threat to society, but this offence was non-cognizable, bailable and compoundable.

“Moreover, it overlaps with Section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code which is not a scheduled offence of FIA.”

The FIA also wanted the government to review sections 10, 21 and 22 -- cyber terrorism, offences against modesty of a natural person and child pornography, saying there was a need to enhance punishment under these sections.

The FIA official was of the view that pace of change in the ‘tech world’ was very fast, requiring continuous matching regulations and legislation.

“But unfortunately, we are unable to maintain this and as a result are lagging far behind. The world is preparing itself to combat cyber crimes being committed on dark web and deep web, which are emerging challenges for law enforcement agencies across the world. Digital currency is fast replacing traditional currency, and the new generation is spending more time in the virtual world than physical. To deal with this, the government must wake up to its duty and equip the cyber crime wings with required technologies and address other areas under the Act to deal with this challenge, and also make required amendment to it (PECA),” he suggested.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2018

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