The banking and online fraud reports are on the rise as more people are complaining that they were deprived of their hard earned money. A resident of Chichawatni said that he used to regularly deposit an amount from Saudi Arabia in his wife account and upon his return when he wanted to withdraw the cash he learnt that his amount has been withdrawn by using ATM from Faisalabad and other areas. While another school teacher resident of Ahmedpur Sial yesterday said he received a call from bank branch and they demanded verification of my debt card and he gave all the details and now more that 4 lakh rupees have been withdrawn from my account.
Despite the fact that hacking threat is certainly a cause for concern, but the bankers say FIA cyber wing acted in haste by issuing a warning about the hacking and breach of data from Pakistani banks because such actions create desperation and quick response to the emerging cyber security threats did not yield the required results. The director of the agency's cybercrime unit put out a statement that caused panic among millions of users of credit and debit cards. The opposition has demanded a report from the State Bank on the matter, further fuelling the news cycle on the issue.
The FIA's basis for the statement alleging a wide breach of data in Pakistani banks was a document put out by a private- sector company that describes itself as an IT security firm, as well as its claim that reports by consumers of misuse of their banking data have seen a sharp rise in recent weeks.
Cybersecurity in the financial system is an important matter, no doubt, and much more work is needed to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place going forward, given the growing role that technology is going to play for payments and settlements in the future. Consumer protection is also crucial, and already the absence of appropriate data protection legislation is being felt. But spreading panic and stirring politics is not the answer.
If Opposition who raised the issue, is serious in his concern, it should ask for a copy of the draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, and look for ways to accelerate its passage. The provisions of that bill can go a long way in strengthening digital security in Pakistan. Its implementation, of course, will be key. Typically enough, we see a floundering, disorganised and soundand- fury type of a response from the state to what is otherwise a complex and sophisticated challenge. There is no reversing the growing role of digital architectures in the financial system of the country; strengthening digital security goes hand in hand with this phenomenon. Sadly, an episode which should have awakened the state authorities to the important role they need to play in this regard has, instead, turned into another performance and opportunity for grandstanding in the headlines. The State Bank needs to do more to provide leadership by providing a road map for cybersecurity in Pakistan's financial sector.