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No wide breach of bank accounts data, Senate told

Updated December 21, 2018

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The finance ministry quoted SBP saying that except for the one, it didn't receive any report of data hacking.— Reuters/File
The finance ministry quoted SBP saying that except for the one, it didn't receive any report of data hacking.— Reuters/File

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has rejected reports about a wide breach of bank accounts data, the finance ministry told the Senate on Friday in response to a written question by Senator Mushtaq Ahmed.

Finance Minister Asad Umar, in his written response, mentioned that on Nov 6, the top bank had categorically rejected reports of data hack.

"The SBP affirms that except for the one, it didn't receive any report from any bank, or law enforcement agencies of data hacking of any other bank. However, on Oct 27, [a certain] cash amount was hacked through international ATMs," the minister said in his response.

Take a look: FIA, SBP at odds over theft of bank accounts data

The finance minister also submitted a SBP press release issued on Nov 6, rejecting the alleged wide breach of data security.

Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar told the Senate that the data of accounts of 6,000 clients of Bank Islami was stolen and used. "But the amount was not withdrawn from anyone's bank account. The issue is between the commercial bank and an insurance company," he said, adding that the top bank has further tightened [the security procedure of] cross-border [cash] transactions.

In the first week of November, reports about a breach of credit and debit card data were doing rounds on the media, with the banking circles expressing concerns over the issue. Subsequently around 10 banks had blocked all international transactions on their cards.

A few days later, the head of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime wing had said data from "almost all" Pakistani banks was stolen in a security breach.

"According to a recent report we have received, data from almost all Pakistani banks has been reportedly hacked," FIA Cybercrimes Director retired Capt Mohammad Shoaib had told Geo News.

The official had added that data from "most of the banks" operating in the country had been compromised. Speaking to DawnNewsTV, Shoaib said hackers based outside Pakistan had breached the security systems of several local banks. "The hackers have stolen large amounts of money from people's accounts," he had added.

According to Shoaib, more than 100 cases were being investigated by the agency in connection with the breach.

"An element of banking fraud which is a cause of concern is that banks hide the theft [that involves them]... and the clients report [the theft] to the banks and not to us, resulting in a loss of people's money," he had told DawnNewsTV.

'Data of over 8,000 account holders sold'

Sources had told Dawn that the SBP had been informed by several commercial banks that they have blocked international payments on debit and credit cards as a precautionary measure after cyber attacks on their clients’ accounts.

According to a digital security website krebsonsecurity.com, data of over 8,000 account holders of about 10 Pakistani banks was sold in a market of hackers.

The first cyber attack was reported by BankIslami on October 27. The bank said that Rs2.6 million was stolen from international payment cards after which it has stopped such transactions and allowed biometrically verified payments only on ATM cards within Pakistan.

However, the top bank had denied the reports, saying, “SBP categorically rejects such reports.”

But the IT security firm whose report triggered the entire affair, PakCert, told Dawn that they had indeed shared their report with the SBP on Nov 5. Asked about this report, the SBP spokesperson had confirmed receiving the report in question, but said it contained no evidence of a breach of data.

PPP objects to PM's Special Adviser's rumoured meeting with JIT members

PPP leadership, during the Senate session today, voiced their concerns over an alleged meeting between Prime Minister's Special Adviser on Accountability, Shahzad Akbar, and members of a joint investigation team (JIT) probing the allegations of money laundering against PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and others.

PPP stalwart Sherry Rehman, also the Leader of the Opposition in Senate, alleged that [the government] was exacting "political revenge under the pretext of accountability".

"There are reports that Akbar met with members of the JIT," she claimed. "The JIT was constituted for Asif Ali Zardari and Faryal Talpur."

The PPP leader alleged that a "conspiracy is being hatched", and claimed that the case's witnesses had also attended the rumoured meeting.

"Prove that Shahzad Akbar was not in the FIA office," she challenged the treasury benches.

Akbar, meanwhile, took to Twitter to "categorically deny meeting JIT" members on December 19 but acknowledged that he interacts with officials from the FIA and other agencies "on daily basis for our work under Assets Recovery Unit".