ISLAMABAD: In the middle of a brewing cyber war, Pakistan is preparing to start developing local SIMs and smart cards in an attempt to defend the nation from the significant threat of cyber attacks.
Earlier, a mobile production programme was implemented by the government. In the initial eight digits of the 15-digit International Network Equipment Identification (IMEI) used to uniquely identify wireless devices, Pakistan was faced with a security challenge due to Indian-made smartphones using the Type Allocation Code of other countries.
Researchers at a security company called AdaptiveMobile Security released a study (via TNW) in September last year about a new vulnerability dubbed Simjacker that uses the SIM card of a computer to spy. And of Simjacker, all mobile phone manufacturers and models can be used, more than one billion handsets can be impacted worldwide.
Indian hackers have also targeted Pakistani officials’ accounts. Pakistan successfully countered the assaults, however. The government is looking to start developing SIMs and smart cards after implementing the smartphone manufacturing programme. Under the programme, investors will be invited by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom to create these cards.
In order to go ahead with the new proposal, the IT Ministry is now awaiting the approval of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). The Ministry of Information Technology said in a description sent to the economic decision-making body that digital transformation and the development of an enabling environment was one of the Government of Pakistan’s main priorities and that SIMs and smart cards were of crucial importance in the era of digital services.
The ministry said it was felt that for different reasons, local development of these chips and cards needed to be supported. A committee for the development of SIMs and smart cards has been created by the government. A cross-stakeholder committee was set up, on the order of the prime minister, to make recommendations in order to move forward.
A variety of meetings were held with the related stakeholders, including the Engineering Development Board (EDB), Cellular Network Operators (CMOs), law enforcement agencies, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the Federal Revenue Board (FBR). A comprehensive report was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom.
In addition, a report was also transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister, which contained proposals for a strategic path forward. Prime Minister Imran Khan instructed the ECC to send these recommendations. The draught summary was then distributed for stakeholder input.
Comments were obtained from the Ministry of Trade, Banking, Interior, Factories and Development and the Regulator for Telecommunications in response. The FBR and SBP have both provided statements in favour of the strategy. The stakeholders endorsed, in their remarks, the initiative taken by the Ministry of Information Technology to produce SIMs and smart cards in Pakistan.
IT Ministry Secretary Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui told The Express Tribune that recommendations for the local development of SIMs and smart cards had been prepared by the group. He said the committee had proposed reducing taxes on the material to be used in Pakistan’s SIM manufacturing activities. He said many investors were ready to start developing SIMs in Pakistan, adding that it would guarantee the security of the country as well as build job opportunities.
He also maintained that this move would contribute to foreign exchange savings. The local production of SIMs would help the economy, according to industry analysts, as millions of SIMs are currently imported. The mechanism for local development and its implementation should be expedited if we are assured that Pakistani producers will ensure output at fair prices. In addition to promoting the government’s Modern Pakistan vision, this would reduce dependency on foreign firms and also save foreign currency reserves, said an official.