Cy­ber alarms

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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