GUJRAT: The data of land owners seems to be at stake in Punjab after the computer software of Dehi Marakaz-e-Maal (DMM) has been ‘hacked’.

The authorities, however, disabled the VPN access to the system for the time being after complaints of land mutations without knowledge of landowners by hackers.

The issue first surfaced in Bhalwal tehsil of Sargodha district last week, where agricultural land worth millions of rupees was transferred to other people’s names by the hackers who broke into the computerised land record management information system.

The complaints of land ownership transfer were also received from other parts of the province such as Vanike Tarrar (Hafizabad), Kharian and Dinga (Gujrat), and Lodhran without authorisation or depositing of requisite government fees applicable on such services and transactions.

The Bhalwal assistant commissioner moved a complaint to the Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) on June 27 last. Relevant employees in Kharian reported that transactional fard was issued despite stay orders from court barring any transaction whereas previously the system run by the PLRA would automatically stop any transaction when the stay order was entered in the record.

They said after the system’s hacking, khana kaasht, an entry of ownership, vanished from the software creating panic among employees and landowners.

The centres were established by former Senior Member Board of Revenue (SMBR) Babar Hayat Tarrar with the utilisation of funds of the Punjab Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) for which hundreds of computer-literate patwaris were recruited across the province.

Sources privy to the development said most of the centres were being run by “illiterate patwaris” who lack the required technical knowledge and training to handle the IT-based system. They said neither the IT department of the PLRA had been able to detect and dismantle the threats posed to the system nor was there a standardised mechanism to do so.

PLRA Director IT Osama Bin Saeed on Sunday conveyed the information to the relevant field staff that the VPN had been disabled for the time being and the access would be restored once the authorities resolve the issue.

A spokesman for the PLRA said the system had not been hacked but disrupted after multiple attempts by some intruders after which the VPN access had been disabled. He said efforts were under way to detect the error and hopefully the issue would be resolved in a couple of days.

The farmers and landowners have urged the government to take measures to save the precious data of land record.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2022

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