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Wednesday Aug 12 2020

Major cyber attack by India targeting devices of govt, military officials identified: ISPR

The security breach by Indian intelligence agencies involved "deceitful fabrication by hacking personal mobiles and technical gadgets". — Reuters/Files

Pakistan's intelligence agencies have identified a major security breach whereby phones and other gadgets of government officials and military personnel were targeted by Indian hackers.

According to a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the cyber-attack by Indian intelligence agencies involved "a range of cyber crimes including deceitful fabrication by hacking personal mobiles and technical gadgets".

"Various targets of hostile intelligence agencies are being investigated," said the military's media wing.

"Pakistan Army has further enhanced necessary measures to thwart such activities including action against violators of standing operating procedures (SOPs) on cybersecurity," added the statement.

It also said that an advisory is being sent to all government departments so they may identify security lapses and enhance cybersecurity measures.

Senior officials advised to stop using WhatsApp

In March this year, the federal government had issued directives to the provincial governments to ban the use of social networking apps citing threats of cyber attacks by foreign intelligence agencies.

A letter issued by the National Telecom and Information Technology Security Board titled ‘Ban on use of WhatsApp and likewise means for sharing of official letter and information’ read: “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."

“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," the letter continued.

“This 'Pegasus' malware has infected approximately 1,400 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,” it added.

Furthermore, senior government officials holding sensitive portfolios and dealing with national security matters were said to have been advised to avoid sharing information on WhatsApp and upgrade the application to the latest version.

“All mobile phones purchased prior to May 10, 2019, must be immediately replaced," the government had directed at the time.