Thursday Mar 12, 2020
The federal government, concerned about leakages of confidential letters and cyber attacks by foreign intelligence agencies, has issued directives to the provincial governments to ban the use of social networking apps, reported The News on Thursday.
Moreover, the Sindh government is said to have also taken measures in this regard and is considering banning the use of WhatsApp and other social networking applications by government servants.
A letter has been issued by the National Telecom and Information Technology Security Board, Cabinet Division, Government of Pakistan, titled Ban on use of WhatsApp and likewise means for sharing of official letter and Information.
“It has been reported that hostile intelligence agencies have developed technical capabilities and means to gain access to sensitive information stored in mobile phones of officials of government departments, institutions, and ministers in the country," it reads.
“These spyware companies are using hacking softwares and applications such as Chat Line and Pegasus malware on WhatsApp account of target mobile phones (IOS and Android) to gain access to sensitive information stored on mobile phones. The malware is capable to infect any mobile phone (IOS and Android) only by generating missed call on target WhatsApp number," it warns.
“This Pegasus malware has infected approximately 1400 senior government and military officials in twenty countries including Pakistan. Hostile spyware companies such as Israel-based NSO Group have been sued by WhatsApp and Facebook in the US Court of San Francisco for violating both US and California laws as well as the WhatsApp Terms of Service," the letter notes.
Although the advisory on the subject has also been issued to all government departments and ministers by the National Telecom and Information Technology Security Board, Cabinet Division, in order to minimise the possibility of any infection by Pegasus malware, senior government officials holding sensitive portfolios and dealing with national security matters are said to have been advised to take further precuations.
“No official and classified information be shared on WhatsApp or similar application being highly insecure. WhatsApp be upgraded to latest version on IOS and Android. All mobile phones purchased prior to May10, 2019 be immediately replaced," the letter reads.
Official sources said on Wednesday the Sindh government was taking the letter and advisory seriously and moved the letter to the relevant departments for immediate implementation.
In November, the Information Technology board had recommended that the government ban social networking websites such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube in government offices.
In a briefing to a standing committee of the National Assembly, the board also advised that a separate authority be set up to combat the spread of fake news across the country.
According to reports, the technology board told the standing committee that government employees spent a lot of their office time on social websites, and even conduct part time business on them.
In order to stop this practice, the committee was informed that a new local social network, modeled on WhatsApp, would be introduced into government offices to streamline communications.
Originally published in The News