The government on Friday warned government officials of attempts to hack mobile phones to obtain “sensitive information” and asked them to remain vigilant.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said, “Security agencies have unearthed an attempt to hack the mobile phones of senior government officials in a bid to obtain sensitive information.”

It said the elements behind the attempts used phishing methods while posing as senior government officials.

“The involved elements, in the name of senior government officials, made the nefarious attempt to obtain sensitive information from state officials and the bureaucracy.

“Attempts to obtain information were also made by sending mobile-hacking links on WhatsApp,” the PMO added.

It further said that the government has instructed all state officials to remain vigilant and ignore any such messages.

The officials have also been told to immediately alert the Cabinet Division upon receiving such a message.

“Pakistan’s security agencies are fully alert on this matter,” the PMO statement added.

Earlier in July, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had directed the interior ministry to conduct a joint investigation into a data breach as it expressed apprehensions over the data leak of citizens, especially of military authorities, from the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra).

Security breach at PMO

In September last year, a slew of audio recordings of conversations between key government figures — including then-premier Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and some members of the federal cabinet — were released.

The content of the recordings appeared to be informal conversations in the Prime Minister’s Office — as opposed to recorded phone conversations.

First, a recording of Shehbaz surfaced where he was discussing with an unidentified official the possibility of facilitating the import of Indian machinery for a power project that was a concern of Maryam’s son-in-law, Raheel.

Further recordings surfaced a day later, which were shared on social media by several PTI leaders, concerning former finance minister Miftah Ismail and the resignations of PTI lawmakers from the National Assembly.

One clip purportedly featured a conversation between Maryam and Shehbaz about Miftah, wherein a voice thought to belong to the former says he “doesn’t know what he is doing” and wishes for the return of PML-N stalwart Ishaq Dar.

A second clip allegedly concerned a conversation between Shehbaz, then-defence minister Khawaja Asif, then-law minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, then-interior minister Rana Sanaullah and Ayaz Sadiq about the resignations of PTI lawmakers from the National Assembly.

A third clip purportedly featured a conversation between Maryam and Shehbaz regarding the return of former army chief retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Shehbaz had termed the surfacing of audio leaks a “very serious lapse” and announced that a high-level committee would be constituted to probe the matter.

On the other hand, the PTI had filed a petition in the SC seeking a probe into the audios. Former premier Imran Khan had also written a letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and other SC judges, and sought “enforcement” of the fundamental rights of the public, including the Constitution’s Article 14 (fundamental right to privacy).

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