An increase in hacking of social media accounts and mobile phones has been observed across Punjab in recent months.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cybercrime Wing has reportedly received more than 2,500 complaints of online hacking from all over the province. According to sources, the complaints are related to hacking of phone record, websites and social media.
A number of citizens complained that they had lost millions of rupees as a result of the hackers having gained access to their bank accounts’ details.
There were also complaints that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts of people were hacked and nasty messages and objectionable video clips were uploaded through them after doctoring with the help of their own or stolen software.
In several instances, the hacked social media accounts were also used for fraud. In some cases, the users rarely used their accounts and came to know about the hacking only when the FIA issued notices to them for investigation of complaints.
A cyber security expert, Adnan Alam, pointed out while speaking to The Express Tribune that a large number of people in the country were unable to create their own social media accounts. Their relatives or friends created the accounts for them and they also had all the required details. Such people might later hack their accounts and commit fraud or even blackmailing.
When the FIA investigated various cases, it came to light that the same people who had created the social media accounts turned out to be involved in using them for fraud.
The expert said a major reason for the increasing cases of hacking was that the people were not aware regarding the use of modern communication technology while the need for using such tools was on the rise.
Meanwhile, mobile phone and social media hacking through the Israeli spyware Pegasus has caused an alarm all over the world. There have been reports of attempted hacking from India of the devices of the country’s top leaders and officials.
According to cyber security expert Arshad Shafi, the software has to connect once through a ‘zero-click’ attack, missed call or SMS. Even if the call or message received on a user’s number is just viewed and not responded to, the software starts operating. However, human intervention is needed in such attacks to the extent that the perpetrators need the phone number of the target.
The hackers also take advantage of loopholes in the security features of the phones produced by various companies to take their control through a remote access terminal. The users in many cases do not realise that their social media, email and other communication tools have been hacked. Even if the companies find out about the security breach and move to cover it, the software becomes active to protect itself.
Phone users also often receive messages from various companies about system upgrades and security patches, which are also used by hackers to access the data.
The experts said investigations would be required to ascertain whether the personal phone numbers of important personalities of the country had been leaked, whether there were flaws in the software of phone companies, or whether there had been collusion of any employees with the hackers.
FIA sources said the cybercrime wing had not been ordered to carry out a detailed inquiry into the matter, which would also require the help of other organisations, including the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.
Replying to a question, a software expert said installing security features to prevent hacking was a continuing process.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2021.
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