The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) revealed on Thursday that the biometric data of the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) had been hacked, resulting in an increase in cybercrimes in the country.
During a briefing to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, an official of FIA Cybercrime Wing said the NADRA biometric database had been hacked, however, the quantum hacked was yet to be identified.
He informed the committee that during a raid in Faisalabad, as many as 13,000 SIMs issued on fake CNICs were recovered. He revealed that the wing had so far received 89,000 cybercrime complaints, however, it did not have sufficient staff to address the complaints on a daily basis. He added that it had only 162 investigation officers.
He underscored that usually the persons behind financial frauds, whenever traced, turned out to be elderly men or women whose data were used by the real accused.
The parliamentary panel expressed serious concerns over the sale of illegal SIMs in the country and directed FIA and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to take stern action against the individuals, franchises, and cellular companies involved in this heinous crime.
Chairman PTA, Amir Azeem Bajwa, informed the committee that PTA did not allow any mobile phone company to sell SIMs door-to-door. He said the sale of illegal SIMs had dropped by 600 percent in just one year, from 175,000 last year to 26,000 in October 2021. He admitted that people’s thumb impressions were illegally taken.
Bajwa said that all cellular mobile operators (CMOs) had been directed to install Live Finger Detective (LFD) devices for issuing SIMs. He said verification based on index fingers instead of thumb impressions was under discussion among PTA, NADRA, and CMOs for implementation. He added that two CMOs, CMPak, and Ufone, were fined Rs. 100 million and Rs. 50m, respectively.
Further highlighting the actions taken, Chairman PTA said that 2,962 retailers were terminated, 532 franchises were issued warnings and 360,569 CNICs were blacklisted for sale of new SIMs.
The committee recommended using multiple techniques to check the issue of illegal SIMs which was the main factor behind the increase in cybercrimes in Pakistan.
The committee observed that the government took all stakeholders except the parliament on board regarding the social media rules. It stressed keeping national interest and national perspective intact while the formulation of laws.
Chairman Ali Khan Jadoon recommended a separate briefing on social media rules and also stressed the need for taking public representatives on board in this regard.