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March 12, 2020

Centre suggests ban on use of social networking apps in govt offices

Karachi

March 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.

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 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’, reads, “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.

“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.”

Although 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 consider the following: “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.”

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.