Government urged to put in place an agency to address hacking issue
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan does not have an official computer emergency readiness team (CERT) to combat cyber threats and vulnerabilities and this gap is filled by semi-official and privately-run initiatives.
One such effort is a CERT team called PISA-CERT, which successfully thwarted a mock cyber attack on Wednesday at the Pakistan Research Centre for Cyber Security (PRCCS) while participating in a region-wide annual drill conducted by the Asia Pacific CERT (APCERT).
The APCERT, headquartered in Japan, cooperates with response teams from Asia Pacific countries to ensure cyber security in the region.
The drill involved a hypothetical scenario where a team of hackers were attacking a government tax website through a botnet — a collection of programmes performing automated tasks that is sometimes exploited by hackers to spread viruses across computers.
The botnet in the scenario consisted of a collection of smart phones that was set up through a series of compromised web servers, said Dr Zaheer Ahmed, the vice president of Centre for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE), where the PRCCS is housed.
Ahmed said that the Pakistani CERT team successfully neutralised the attack by following different assigned tasks in the allotted time.
PRCCS representatives said that Pakistan should have an official agency to respond to hacking and phishing attempts and to strengthen the country’s cyber security profile. “We participated in the APCERT drill so at least some Pakistani presence is registered on the regional platform,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed said that the draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2014 will be useful as it will allow evidence against cyber crimes to be entertained in courts. But, he said, more efforts were required at the government level to cope with the increasing online threats.
PRCCS is also conducting analyses of cyber threats itself.
According to Ahmed, the research centre indirectly uses the services of around 150 researchers at CARE and another 150 students and faculty members of CARE’s sister organisation, the Centre for Advanced Studies in Engineering.