Cyber crimes – is there a solution?

In today’s world we use computers for everything; searching the internet, online shopping, accessing bank accounts, emailing, and online gaming as some examples. Communication is faster and more reliable. Where we are becoming more dependent on computers; we have also become more vulnerable. Today street crimes are becoming something of the past. It is not to say that they don’t occur but computer crime is more convenient. There are individuals that hack into computers and your personal or sensitive data can be stolen, destroyed or misused.

Do we have enough security mechanisms in Pakistan to prevent cyber crime? Daily Mail has asked some questions from Amir Nazir, Forensic Officer in Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

DM: Please tell our readers, being a Law Enforcement Agency, what is your organisation doing to help fighting Cyber Crimes?
FIA has a dedicated wing named as ‘National Response Centre for Cyber Crime’ (NR3C). This wing comprises of a team of technical experts and Investigation officers and has its dedicated Police Stations and Forensic Labs to deal with cyber crimes. After receiving complaints regarding cyber crimes, FIA conducts investigations and proceed towards arrest and prosecution of culprits. Our job doesn’t start only after a crime is committed, instead we are involved even when the information about an expected crime is received and the crime is in the process of commission.

DM: What could have been the consequences of hacking and using people’s intellectual properties without their consent according to the provisions of cyber law in Pakistan?
As defined in the law, gaining or attempting to gain unauthorised access to any electronic system, data or information is a criminal offence in Pakistan and the punishment of it is imprisonment up to 07 years plus fine for committing such offence. Similarly, law also makes it an offence to damage, alter or misuse people’s personal data without authorisation. The punishment for this offence defined in the law is also imprisonment up to 07 years with additional fine.

DM: Another newly emerged cyber crime these days is youngsters hacking people’s e-mail accounts, Facebook or Orkut IDs etc. and using them to send inappropriate and often obscene messages…sometimes the pictures are edited with some x-rated images very skilfully and then disseminated to the contact list of the hacked person from an anonymous ID. How could your department help catching these anonymous culprits?
We are already dealing with such complaints and have arrested culprits as well. If anyone is victim of such crime then he or she can lodge their complaint to:
National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C), FIA Headquarters, Islamabad; E-mail:; Telephone +92-51-9266656; Cell +92-3366006060; and Fax: 051-9266435.
It is advised to the complainants to write their application in simple English or in Urdu, narrate your complete problem, provide as much evidences and details as they can and in the end mention their names, contact numbers and addresses.

DM: In Pakistan, we have a culture that people shy away from reporting such incidents because of their concerns about defamation? What does your organization do about it? Is the confidentiality of these cases maintained?
All information about complainants or victims is kept confidential during inquiries and investigations conducted by FIA and only few concerned officers have knowledge of the case so there is no need to shy away from reporting such incidents. Reporting a crime is actually helping government to catch criminals and prevent such crimes in future by the same criminal.

DM: What problems do you usually face in the process of investigation?
AN: The problems we usually face during cyber crime investigations are mostly related to cross border jurisdiction. Internet has become a virtual borderless world so criminals enjoy the facility to launch their attacks from anywhere in the world. The crime in Pakistan may not be a crime in some other country. Therefore during investigations, timely obtaining tracking information from other countries, arresting foreign criminals and examining computer systems outside Pakistan may not be possible due to many reasons. The solution is International Law for Cyber Crimes, which unfortunately doesn’t exist yet.

DM: Public awareness is very crucial to prevent Cyber Crimes and in Pakistan the awareness of Cyber Laws and its prevention is equal to nothing. Could you please tell our readers what is FIA doing for that?
Cyber Crime awareness among public and private sector organisations is one of our main objectives. As part of our public awareness campaign, we have focused on university students and conducted several seminars in different universities of Pakistan because most of the internet users in Pakistan are our young generation. Moreover, FIA also release news in the press and media whenever criminals are caught. This is also helping us to spread awareness among general public. Besides universities, NR3C wing of FIA has conducted many awareness seminars and trainings for Banking Industry, IT Industry, Police officers, Judiciary, and other law enforcement & Intelligence agencies.

DM: What could be done further to improve the cyber security in our country?
The emergence of internet in its known form is just nearly 20 years old and so are the related threats. Majority of internet users including many public and private sector organizations are not well aware of cyber laws in Pakistan and security mechanisms to prevent them. Education and awareness at the government and higher management level is the key factor that can contribute towards improving cyber security. Government needs to take initiative to start degree level courses in information security in all major universities. Government should also take steps to have provision for information security staff and controls for all important information repositories. Private sector should also come forward and contribute in Research and Development of information security.

As we can see, even though cyber crime is still a problem, we have mechanisms in place in Pakistan to fight them. The way to protect it is for everyone - individuals, institutions, and government should all have awareness to take preventive measures. When you see such crimes happening around report them and show the criminals that we have no tolerance for these crimes. If everyone does their part, not only will they be safer but it will be setting an example for others as well as making it more difficult for hackers to cause damage.

Bushra Naz

Published on 13 January 2010, Daily Mail

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