Fighting cyber crime remains an elusive enterprise

Fighting cyber crime remains an elusive enterprise
Fighting cyber crime remains an elusive enterprise 

By Husna Ali
April 15, 2007

The government has announced that it will install high technology 
mechanisms at the National Response Center of the Federal Investigation 
Agency (FIA) to counter cyber-terrorism but what cannot be ignored is 
that the existing Cyber Crime Wing of the FIA lacks not only the 
advanced technology, but is devoid of any infrastructure as well.

Launched on March 13, 2003, the Cyber Crime Wing was established after 
the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl. In this case, Pakistani 
agencies had to rely on American investigators to trace the e-mails sent 
to the media by his abductors. That is when the need was felt for such a 

The Pakistan government was criticized at that time heavily by certain 
quarters of the Western media, as controversies kept on pouring from all 
corners over the circumstances in which the murder took place.

Born out of this need, the Cyber Crime Wing was launched with a bang - 
soliciting international coverage, as well as accolades for this 
initiative. However it never evolved completely as an independent unit 
and remained under the Crime Circle of FIA. Yes it is not a separate set 
up and is still in the offing, and working under crime circle, said 
Deputy Director FIA Immigration, Khalique-uz-Zaman.

Such programmes take time and investment, he said, admitting that the 
current Cyber Crime Wing, despite the huge publicity it received from 
the media, is not effective even after three years of its launch.

Khalique-uz-Zaman, who solved the first cyber crime case involving 
Western Union where Rs5 to 6 million were laundered, thinks that cyber 
crime is not a very common type of crime in Pakistan. This crime is 
still few and far between, but creating a separate facility will help us 
control and handle such crime effectively in the future, he disclosed.

However, another official belonging to the Personal Identification 
Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PICES) department of FIA, 
contradicts this. He says that the problem is that of detection. He says 
that the problem of cyber crime is that it is disguised and people 
cannot distinguish between regular and internet based crime.

With its headquarters in Islamabad and zonal directorates in the 
provincial capitals, the current Cyber Crime Wing is in dire need of 
technical staff to carry out raids and solve complicated net crimes. It 
took more than three years for the government of Pakistan to finally 
allocate a budget of approximately Rs181.42 million to establish a 
separate and fully equipped facility. To tackle this fast growing crime 
in the country, many in the FIA hope for a speedy clearance of this 
budget to start building the facility soon.

Mehmud-ul-Hasan, the Deputy Director for National Response Center for 
Cyber Crime (NRSCC), talking to The News during his recent visit to 
Karachi from the capital, said that since its launch in 2003, no 
technical or additional staff has been hired for this wing and it stands 
in urgent need of trained manpower.

We used to function from the office of crime wing because we did not 
have either the set up or the manpower, he stated, adding there was no 
appointment as such except that of Ammar Hussain Jaffery, Director NRSCC 
and myself were assigned to handle crime related to the Internet, he 

The new set up, as promised, will offer state of the art facilities 
including a forensic lab and a staff of 184 trained personnel. But this 
is still a dream.

The current staff will also be imparted training. Currently the US 
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is providing training whenever 
needed, under an MOU signed between the two agencies in 2005. While 
cyber crime has evidently increased over the years, only 33 cases were 
registered in 2006 due to lack of public awareness about the existence 
of this wing.

Yes people do not know about cyber crime wing because there has been no 
proper publicity to acquaint the masses with the department, he said.

A large chunk of the budget will now be allocated to educate citizens 
about the new facility of Cyber Crime Wing and its working. A mass 
awareness campaign would be launched to enlighten the public on the 
concept of cyber crime and the existence of a facility where they can 
lodge their complaints, said the enthusiastic Hasan. However he feels 
that such awareness should not be limited to the media alone but should 
be included in school curricula as well.

The allocation of this huge budget is no surprise to anyone because 
right after the US invasion of Afghanistan, US officials had claimed 
that the next attack on its soil could be in the form of cyber 
terrorism. On account of being a close ally on War against terrorism, 
Pakistan had to focus its attention too towards this area.

Pakistan too is also a victim of cyber terror. Hacking of official 
government websites is also reported to have increased in Pakistan since 
September 11, 2001 attacks and later the invasion of Afghanistan and 
Iraq by American forces, making Pakistan also vulnerable to cyber 

Right after the US invasion of Afghanistan, some pro-Taliban Pakistani 
hackers entered the official websites of India and left threatening 
messages, reported a website.

Hasan agreed that hacking of official websites was also a concern for 
developing this new facility, along with other Internet based crimes 
which ranged from financial crimes to criminal act of aggression, both 
against the state and against the citizens. He, however refrained from 
giving any more information regarding e-crimes committed against the 
Pakistani government.

As for how many Pakistani websites have been hacked since then, Hasan 
again refused to give details but agreed that some important websites 
have been hacked in the past. It is interesting to mention here that 
despite the immense growth that Pakistan has made in the IT sector, 
Pakistan government websites are not hosted locally.

Yes we are on foreign servers and have to rely on them in case of break 
down, Hasan accepted reluctantly, adding, we have been asking to host 
our websites locally but to no avail. While cyber crime was earlier 
limited to financial crimes which included credit card theft, illegal 
transactions through online banking and money laundering, it has now 
reached new heights and creates new concerns amongst the government and 
masses alike.

The new worries are pornography, email-spoofing and cyber defamation 
which has increased here over the years but have gone unpunished in 
absence of a separate facility and lack of awareness.

A recent addition to the cyber crime, which requires the attention of 
authorities here in Pakistan is the telecom sector through which crime 
has increased.

With the boom in the cell phone business, many consumers are complaining 
of their accounts being misused or their amount being unduly deducted by 
the phone companies. Such theft usually goes unreported because people 
do not know where to lodge complaints, he informed adding, and this is s 
very lucrative crime for some companies.

Hasan explained that even if 10 rupees, which a very small amount for a 
user, was illegally deducted from one subscriber, imagine the huge 
amount of money that would come in given the large number of users in 
the country. This is a big scam we are talking about.

The new facility promises to control this and many other Cyber Crime 
being committed everday. But all this depends on when the promised money 
will come through and whether it will be used for the purpose earmarked.

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