ISLAMABAD   -  The Federal Investigation Agency’s Cybercrime Wing on Thursday told the National Assembly panel that the biometric data of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has been compromised as it was being used to issue illegal SIMs of cellular phones.  

The Cybercrime Wing Additional Director Tariq Pervez told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication that “NADRA’s data has been compromised and hacked.” 

A day earlier, Chairman NADRA Tariq Malik had claimed that the citizens’ data being maintained by the national registry was secure and has never been compromised. 

The FIA additional director later clarified that NADRA’s biometric system was compromised during the SIM verification process and all of its data is not hacked. He also informed the committee that met under the chair of MNA Ali Khan Jadoon that as many 13,000 illegal SIMs, which were biometrically verified through silicone thumbs, were seized during a crackdown in Faisalabad. He underlined that whenever they trace culprits behind financial frauds, they turned out to be elderly persons or women whose data had been used by the swindlers. 

The FIA official stated that the wing had not sufficient staff to address the complaints about cybercrimes that were in thousands. He further said that they had only 162 investigation officers. 

Meanwhile, NADRA in a statement strongly rebutted the claim of FIA official and said, “The citizens’ biometric data is completely secure.” “NADRA’s biometric data has not been hacked,” the authority said in a statement.  The NADRA statement said that FIA was misunderstood while giving a statement about its biometric data. To the surprise of many, the statement said that NADRA has sought explanation from FIA for giving this “unnecessary and wrong statement.”

The committee also unanimously stressed to tackle the challenge of issuance of illegal SIMs and it emphasized for enhancing capacity building of public institutions to ensure cyber security. 

The meeting recommended for using multiple techniques to check the issue of illegal SIMs. “These SIMs have been a main factor in increasing cybercrimes in Pakistan,” it underlined.  

While responding to briefing on National Cyber Security Policy 2021, the committee unanimously stressed on all concerned for taking extra care for “building firewalls to secure data especially which is sensitive to national security and individuals privacy.” The lawmakers also emphasized on implementation of the policy.

FIA in a late night development backtracked from its earlier statement and clarified that “no such statement was given about hacking of data which has been misrepresented.”

However, it is important to mention here that remarks of the FIA official are record of the committee’s proceedings.