Security experts in a policy seminar have criticised the absence of a lead agency or comprehensive mechanism in Pakistan that could prevent or respond to any emergency situation should a major cyber threat arise.
Experts also called for the development of indigenous IT and satellite technologies to ensure cyber security.
The seminar titled “Cyber Threats: Implications on National Security” was organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad. The seminar was chaired by former ambassador and Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) Executive Director Ali Sarwar Naqvi while the main speakers included Center for International Peace and Stability (CIPS) National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST) Associate Dean Dr Tughral Yamin, Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) Senior Research Fellow Syed Muhammad Ali, Bahria University, Islamabad Assistant Professor Dr Nadia Khadam, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) former additional director general Ammar Jaffri and senior IPS associate Brig (r) Said Nazir.
Dr Yamin in his presentation deplored that Pakistan lagged behind even compared to neighbouring countries like India and Iran in vision, leadership, infrastructure, proper legislation and well-devised policies to react to any cyber offensives which at worst could even affect the country’s territorial sovereignty by interfering in government’s decision making systems or causing a situation of panic or inadvertent war.
“There is no designated lead agency in Pakistan at present which is responsible for cyber security in the country”, he said.
He proposed that Pakistan, which according to Edward Snowden’s revelation is the second most spied upon country in the world, should have a national cyber command and a designated cyber security force like the US or its traditional rival India, both of which have invested heavily on this front in the previous years. The US cyber command is headed by a four-star general while India is planning to recruit half a million IT professionals for cyber warfare in the near future, he said.
He called for implementation of the action plan proposed for a cyber secure Pakistan in 2013 by a specially formed Senate committee, as well as making the National Cyber Security Council – proposed in the Cyber Security Bill of 2014 – a part of the National Security Council (NSC).
Ali termed cyber intrusion an instrument of modern world’s fifth generation warfare stressing that the allocation of substantial resources by global powers in developing their cyberwar force signifies the need for paying urgent attention to this arena which was not any less important than the battlefields of land, air, sea and the space in the current scenario.
Dr Nadia urged for an aggressive approach for Pakistan to engage the global community through meaningful international legal instruments to counter the cyber security threats.
Jafri, too, endorsed the notion stating that according to a recent study by ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), Pakistan was rated low in terms of its cyber preparedness. He opined that all the stakeholders should collaborate and try to devise a robust mechanism to answer emerging cyber world challenges.