Rs2bn released to upgrade cyber security apparatus: minister

ISLAMABAD: The government has released an initial budget of Rs2 billion to improve and upgrade its obsolete cyber security apparatus, Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said.

Cyber security is the practice of defending computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks, and data from malicious attacks.

The decision to invest in the computer security regime comes months after the government announced to probe the reports of pro-India malware spying on top civilian leadership, including the prime minister, and the military.

In July, Islamabad announced it was investigating whether a mobile phone number once used by Imran Khan was part of a surveillance hacking attempt using the Pegasus software.

Months before that, in February, Lookout Inc., a California-based cybersecurity company, reported that two malware programs on an Android-based platform that emerged in India have been spying on the Pakistan military.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Monday, Ahmad said the amount will help engage technocrats to improve Pakistan’s cyber security regime.

He said the cyber-attacks and threats on government entities have increased manifold, revealing his ministry has received 100,000 complaints since December last when he assumed office.

The minister said it has also been decided to introduce e-passports. In this regard, a summary is being forwarded to the cabinet for approval to add 15 additional countries to the visa-on-arrival list, taking the number of the nations to 65.

These countries include the United States, Canada, France and Iran, he said.

Ahmad said those elements behind the cancellation of the tour of the New Zealand cricket team will be exposed soon and the Federal Investigation Agency was working on it.

The government has also contacted Interpol and “we will give good news to you soon”, he said.

While threats from various terrorist bodies were present, the military and the security agencies were “well-equipped and passionate” about eliminating them, he said. “If anyone raises their head for terrorism in the country, they will be trampled.”

Commenting on the political situation, the minister said the Election Commission of Pakistan and the government were “coming closer” and the “combative atmosphere” between the two on the introduction of electronic voting was “diminishing”.

He also stressed the need for a cordial atmosphere between state institutions to conduct fair elections.

Ahmed predicted there would be “three factions” within the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party and it would be subject to internal strife and conflict two years later when a new political atmosphere would present itself.

He said PML-N chief Shehbaz Sharif should worry about his party instead of thinking, and planning, of going after the government.

Responding to a question, the interior minister said good news will soon be shared with the nation concerning the use of electronic voting machines as it was the demand of the people, and not the government.

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