Govt issues phone tapping alert

Published: September 29, 2018
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Official advisory warns about presence of machines intercepting mobile communication. PHOTO: AFP

Official advisory warns about presence of machines intercepting mobile communication. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a serious warning to foreign missions and local government officials, the government has issued an advisory about the presence of machines intercepting cellular communication.

In his letter to federal ministries and offices in the Constitution Avenue and Diplomatic Enclave, Deputy Secretary National Telecom and Information Technology Security Board (NTISB) Lieutenant Colonel Ishtiaq Mahmood Kiani warned about the activities of “hostile intelligence agencies for interception of mobile phones.”

The letter was dispatched on September 11 to all federal ministries and buildings surrounding the enclave. The enclave is a high security zone where the foreign embassies, high commissions and offices of foreign missions are located.

The NTISB warned that “modern interception solutions available in the world are capable to monitor cellular voice/SMS communication of target area of interest.”

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The letter aims at warning the government offices to be aware to passing on sensitive information through mobile phones to “minimise the threat.”

The advisory said, “avoid discussing sensitive and classified official information on mobile telephones. Always keep mobile data option to 3G/LTE. Avoid use of SMS for passage of sensitive and classified information.” It further recommended make maximum use of landline telephones for personal interaction for discussing sensitive or classified issues.

Several officials of the ministry of interior were approached for official version but they said they had no knowledge of any such letter. Minister of State for Interior Ali Muhammad Khan or the government have yet to speak on the issue.

This is not the first time the government has issued an advisory or talked officially about the presence of information being intercepted by foreign spy agencies, or about the tracking of the buildings in the Red Zone.

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In 2015, chairman of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Interior Rehman Malik claimed that two foreign embassies were spying on Prime Minister’s House. He also said that former president Asif Ali Zardari and the then PM Nawaz Sharif’s phone had been tapped.

He pointed out that it was during a meeting in 2009 when he was the minister for interior when signals had been detected during a conference of federal Cabinet.

In 2015, the then Intelligence Bureau chief Aftab Sultan had briefed the Senate’s committee that some rays had been detected in the past regarding interception in area surrounding the PM’s Office, Presidency and the Red Zone.

The committee was also told that the government or spy agencies had no means to hinder such communication.

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