PESHAWAR: A local lawyer has moved the Peshawar High Court seeking orders for the federal government toapproach the Interpolto check the breach of mobile phone and bank data of Pakistani citizens and its sale on the dark web.

Shabina Noor filed the petition requesting the court to direct the respondents, including Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Federal Investigation Agency and the federal ministries of interior and information technology, to amend the relevant rules about thesecurity andencryption of mobile phone data and relatedmatters.

She also sought indemnity for mobile phone users over possible data leak by any company, its employees, or cyber intruder.

The respondents in the petition, which was filed through counsel Noor Alam Khan and Fawad Afzal Khan, included the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication through its secretary, the federal government through interior secretary, PTA chairman, Nadra chairman, FIA director-general, Senate standing committee on interior, and chief executives of the four mobile phone companies operating in the country.

The petitioner referred to different news reports about the breach of the data of 150 million Pakistanis and its sale on the dark web.

Lawyer insists information up for sale on dark net

She said the reports suggested that the data of mobile phone users from Pakistan, including complete names, addresses and CNIC numbers, was up for sale online.

The petitioner said that the use of mobile phones and other connected devices had increased in the country and the people stored the information of family members, friends and others, including email and other addresses and phone numbers, on them.

She also said the people kept own, family and other pictures, videos and audio recordings in mobile phones, so it was a serious matter to note that that data was up for sale online.

The petitioner pointed out that as the matter was serious, the chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior directed the FIA last year to probe that alleged data breach and produce a consolidated report but no action was taken on it.

She feared that the inquiry report wouldn’t be made public seriously prejudicing the rights of the people at large.

The petitioner said that the matter needed a proper inquiry for being of public interest as the fundamental rights of the people were being infringed.

She added that as the country was facing serious coronavirus crisis, majority of citizens excessively used mobile phones not only to get themselves registered forthe government’s Ehsaas financial assistance programme,Tiger Force and other initiatives but also to make bank and other transactions, so their information was at high risk of compromise.

The petitioner contended that in Nov 2018, reports surfaced claiming that debit and credit card detailsof 19,864Pakistani citizens from 22 local banks were soldin the ‘dump circulating on the dark net’but unfortunately, the authorities didn’t hold any inquiry to identify and punish culprits and their abettors.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2021

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