Senate panel voices concerns as citizens' data hits dark web market

The Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication expressed concerns on Thursday regarding the sale of Pakistani public data on the dark web, and instructed the safeguarding of public data held by the National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) and banks.

Senator Kauda Babar, the chairman of the committee, offered legislative support if needed to enhance data protection measures.

An official from the ministry emphasised the importance of establishing a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to counter cyber threats and called for increased public awareness regarding cybersecurity in Pakistan.

The official also briefed the Committee on the National Cyber Security Policy (NCSP) approved in July 2021.

Senator Afnan Ullah Khan stressed the significance of penetration testing through ethical hacking as a crucial step in ensuring data protection.

The committee also received a briefing from the CEO of Ignite regarding its initiatives across the country.

The Ignite has successfully established eight National Incubation Centers (NICs) in Pakistan, generating Rs 15 billion in revenue, creating 128 thousand jobs, and incubating over 1400 startups.

The committee chairman commended the Ignite for its role in enhancing the startup ecosystem, and urged the establishment of NICs in more cities, especially in Balochistan, to benefit the youth in that region.

Additionally, the committee received a briefing on the NTC infrastructure and services in Sindh and Balochistan. NTC, the official telecom and ICT service provider to the government of Pakistan, manages 128,000 connections and has established multiple data centers across the country.

Senator Kauda Babar expressed reservations about the high rates and quality of service provided by the NTC, urging improvements and offering legislative support if necessary.

The chairman also expressed concern about the delay in the installation and provision of National Mobile Roaming Services, despite the allocated funding from USF. He directed the expedited process, especially in Balochistan, to address connectivity issues faced by the people.

The meeting was attended by Senators Afnan Ullah Khan, Rubina Khalid, Sana Jamali, Seeme Ezdi, Sania Nishtar, Shahdat Awan, the Secretary of the Ministry of IT and Telecommunication, and the CEOs of the NTC and Ignite.

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