KARACHI: As the weekend cyberattack on a leading bank causes services disruption, telecom and information technology authorities have warned of serious threats that the government and business organisations have been facing in the modern digital era.

The warning came from Federal Minister for IT & Telecom Syed Amin-ul-Haque, who recalled recent attacks on IT systems of domestic organisations ranging from government agencies to banks and business conglomerates to a power supply company while addressing the inaugural session of the “Digital Pakistan Cyber Security Hackathon 2021” on Monday.

He disclosed that the cyberattacks had now become a new source crime being executed for ransom and only last year such attacks caused a loss of $20 billion world over.

“A few weeks ago, the website of Federal Board of Revenue was hacked and the most important data was compromised,” he said.

“In June this year, Pakistan’s leading musical streaming website came under a cyberattack and hackers released data on 257,000 users on the dark web. Similarly last year, K-Electric’s system was hacked and ransom was demanded. The 8.5 GB data of millions of users was posted on the dark web due to non-payment of ransom. The data of Meezan Bank and Bank Islami was hacked but the banks asked their customers to change their PIN codes immediately which minimised the loss. Such attacks show that how insecure the data of our institutions and consumers is,” he said.

He cautioned that if the institutions still did not follow the mechanism devised by his ministry, they could suffer “irreparable damages”. Many institutions, he regretted, did not even have cyber security systems and asked all such organisations to appoint experts at the earliest.

“How to stay safe from cyberattacks, it was explained in detail in Pakistan’s first cyber security policy launched in July,” he said. “Our ministry is developing an integrated mechanism so that in case of any cyberattack on any public or private institution of Pakistan, it should not only be stopped but retaliated. With such events, we do not only want to create awareness among the public about cyber security, but also to bring forward creative cyber security experts from across the country.”

“We are developing a team where successful cyber security experts would become a part of Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) that would be soon formed by the ministry,” he said. “The purpose of this Cyber Security Hackathon is to train and prepare experts in the country. It would also test the capabilities of existing experts and train them at the national level. These experts would prevent and respond to cyberattacks on national and private institutions.”

Earlier, the minister shared data of different globally recognised agencies which said there were millions of cyberattacks every day all over the world, including 5.5 million attacks for ransom through malicious software, which called for rapid response through build-up of IT force. With increase in the use of technology and online activities around the world, he said various types of cybercrimes were also on rise.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2021

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