KARACHI: The Interior Ministry has told the Sindh High Court that the National Database and Registration Authority has not leaked any data relating to Pakistani smartphone users (Nadra).
The SHC heard a petition requesting a probe into allegations of a suspected data leak of 115 million Pakistani cell phone users and their purchases on the darknet.
An assistant attorney general presented the statements on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior as the matter came up for a hearing.
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The study claimed that the suspected data breach was constituted by an investigative board and reported that the report by M/s Rewterz, a specialist cybersecurity services company in Pakistan, itself indicated that data exchanged was linked to smartphone users in Pakistan and not to Nadra, while a thorough forensic review through separate tests also confirmed that Nadra did not leak data.
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Many government agencies and enterprises are currently using computerised national identification cards (CNIC) data as a single identity, and sample leaked data was collected and found the information does not correlate with the Nadra database,” it added.”
It further claimed that, since it had already been quoted as one of the respondents in the petition, the Ministry of Information Technology would be in a stronger position to provide specific data in court.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) was ordered by the bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar at the last hearing to take all necessary preventive measures to save the data of mobile users. The PTA’s cybersecurity researcher demanded time to file feedback by claiming that an inquiry was still being undertaken by the PTA and that the study was likely to be completed.
Petitioner Advocate Tariq Mansoor told the bench that the Citizens Safety (Against Online Harm) Act, 2020 and the Data Protection Bill, 2020 were under consideration, but there was still no appropriate legislation.
The petitioner believed that there were claims by Rewterz of the breach of personal data by telecom service providers of 115 million Pakistani cell phone users allegedly, and the same was seen on the darknet by some cybercriminals who were asking 300 bitcoins (BTC) for the data.
He further argued that the records, including the full names, full addresses and CNICs of cellular users, were allegedly placed for sale online and were very disturbing and affected citizens’ privacy.
The petitioner submitted that Senator Rehman Malik, chairman of the Standing Committee on the Interior of the Senate, had allegedly ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate these allegations and to present a compiled report to the committee.
It submitted, however, that it had not been duly informed by the federal government and that, as a result, the study should not have been made public, adding that it was solely a matter of public interest, a violation of citizens’ constitutional rights.
He requested the court to give instructions to the ministries of information technology and telecommunications and interior to promptly notify a high-powered investigative committee under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017, to investigate these allegations and prosecute the perpetrators and their abettors in the data breach and leak under the Official Secret Law, 2017, the Prevention of Cyber Crimes Act,
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Notices were given by the same bench to the Minister of the Establishment, the Federal Civil Service Commission and the Secretary of Law and Justice concerning a petition against the alleged quota structure in the competitive qualifications of the National Superior Services.
The petitioner argued that the time prescribed in the first clause of Article 27(1) of the Constitution for reserving posts had expired in 2013 for individuals belonging to any class or region to obtain adequate representation in Pakistan.
He argued, however, that, in August, the respondents released notices after making changes to the 1973 Rules of Civil Servants (Appointment, Promotion & Transfer) to “safeguard against discrimination in service” and “discourage equal employment opportunities for all.”
The petitioner submitted that these amendments were ultra vires and that they were inconsistent with certain clauses of the Constitution and pleaded to find such notices invalid and unlawful and to refer respondents to the constitutional amendment.