Role of cyberspace in national security | By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi


Role of cyberspace in national security

TODAY, cyber security has become an important component of national security. The phenomenon of new transformation in communication technology entailed by the exigencies of national security suggests profound emphasis on cyber security techniques characterized by a key development in policy making of every government.

According to these strategies general assessment of government revolves round the network of Information and Communication.

Viruses and malware can create disturbance in the computer system damaging the smooth flow of information including theft of sensitive data.

Thus, the Pakistani Government has been exploiting all available means to counter the cyber threats by simultaneously taking significant legal and security measures.

Today, the world is in the midst of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” which is generally marked by the emergence and the rapid advancement of technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), cyber technology and the development of space-based technologies.

All this is supplemented by the convergence of these technologies to create and develop capabilities at both commercial and state levels.

Cyber security is undermined when disturbance is created by an adversary state or individuals who are the active hackers to steal the sensitive data.

In cyberspace, threats can emerge from multiple sources, including state, non-state organizations, or criminal gangs’.

Cyber security is undermined when the disturbance is created by an adversary state.

Cyber-attack could potentially generate different kinds of disruption from cyber intrusion for espionage to attacking critical infrastructure that could produce kinetic results undermining the national security of a state.

Hackers can steal a large sum of money, they could also be involved in stealing which is of primary importance for a state or institution.

In order to ensure the online safety of the citizens of Pakistan and to ensure the security of the digital systems, various initiatives are already in place by different federal & provincial bodies and sectoral regulators under the enactments such as the Electronic Transaction Ordinance, 2002 (covering only electronic financial transactions and records), Investigation for Fair Trial Act (IFTA) – 2013, Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act – 1996 and Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) 2016.

In 2007, Pakistan approved the Electronic Crime Ordinance which observed strict principles over the utilization of network (Usman, 2019).

The National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes of Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan tries to improve the ability of administration to avert and explore Cyber Crime, resources of secure material and give suitable information to offices and basic management related to cyber threats and restoration methods.

The Centre is the point for global joint effort which created in 2003 and assembles intelligence of cyber security.

It seeks mainly the virus attacks, fraud of credit card cases and economic criminalities. ‘Cyberspace’ has considerably emerged as the new battlefield for states. The South Asian region has also been impacted by this complex warfare domain.

This is primarily because India aspires to dominate the regional domain of cyberspace. The international and western literature suggests that Pakistan is among the most spied countries.

The establishment of National Centre for Cyber Security (NCCS) has been commenced by Government of Pakistan in June 2018.

The NCCS project is a joint initiative of Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Planning Commission.

The Centre constitutes Research and Development (R&D) Labs in reputed universities of Pakistan which were shortlisted after the open call for proposals made by HEC in early 2018.

After meticulous scrutiny in two rounds of evaluation, technical proposals from 11 universities of Pakistan were shortlisted.

These universities were given the mandate to establish NCCS affiliated Labs in different specialized areas of cyber security under the secretariat of centre.

It is honour for Air University that it is entrusted with the status of the NCCS Secretariat in addition to the two affiliated labs in the domain of Cyber Crime Forensics and Smart Devices and Networks Security.

Cyber warfare is a major threat in South Asian region, which used to influence the adversary.

There are new technologies quickly introducing and incorporating into the strategies of both states, Pakistan and India.

In recent years, there has been an intensification of India’s cyber-attacks against Pakistan.

The acquisition of the offensive cyber capabilities by India have threatened Pakistan’s cyber security.

In August 2020, the ISPR, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said, ‘’the cyber-attack by Indian intelligence agencies involved “a range of cyber crimes including deceitful fabrication by hacking personal mobiles and technical gadgets”.

India’s use of the Israeli spyware Pegasus remains a major threat to Pakistan— thereby infecting 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.

Pakistan tries to host a robust cyber security mechanism, the selective Cyber Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs) are operational at the organizational level in the public, private and defence sectors.

After the Pegasus, Hermit, is a new spyware which is a big threat to cyber security in Pakistan.

Pakistan ranks 79 on the GCI ranking for 2020 in terms of cyber security measures. Though maintaining deterrence in cyberspace is a mammoth task, Pakistan is constantly engaged in enhancing existing legislative and institutional frameworks, and strengthen the principal, organization, mandated for national cyber security.

Hence, retaliatory actions are envisaged in Pakistan’s National Cyber Security Policy 2021. “[It] will regard a cyber-attack on Pakistan CI/CII as an act of aggression against national sovereignty and will defend itself with appropriate response measures.

” Hence, the policy’s primary deterrence strategy is the denial of benefits to the attacker.

However, to bolster its cyber defence strategy, Islamabad needs more steps to address the multiple growing challenges.

In this regard, respective ministries, security agencies and cyber experts should establish a cyber security forum to discuss and analyze cyber threats and develop effective policies.

Establishing— a cyber-command centre within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), managing defence for the Pakistani military — would be an important initiative in this direction.

Moreover, Pakistan should collaborate with other foreign governments and agencies to efficiently construct a national cyber defence system.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.


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