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October 25, 2019 - Comments Off on What is Ransomware And How can you protect Yourself

What is Ransomware And How can you protect Yourself

The DRF’s helpline has noticed a marked increase in complaints regarding ransomware attacks in Pakistan. This increase means that such attacks are becoming more commonplace, and it would be good practice to protect our devices and software against such malicious software.

Ransomware is a term most people talking about these days. It is a malicious software that enters your hard drive and encrypts all your files, rendering them inaccessible, until you get the decryption key. It increases its area to the level where cybercriminals targeted big giants but also hunted civilians and average users as well. On different social sites, a lot of people talked about the message that appeared on their devices while opening up their document, which asked them to pay a ransom in bitcoin or through another medium to get their files back in a readable format.

There are different Ransomware that belonged to separate families, which has further different variants. You need to check which family ransomware belonged to and what is the variant if you faced a ransomware attack. You can check it by looking into the extension of the encrypted file like in “picture.png” where “png” is the file extension.

Some examples of the Ransomware Attacks:

You all are well-aware of the ‘Wannacry Ransomware’ Attack of 2017. This attack was massive and infected entire devices and databases. It affected many businesses, hospitals, and other big networks across the globe. The malware didn’t leave behind banks, and mobile operators either. It affected companies in over 100 countries.

Petya ransomware was also in the news after wanna cry Ransomware, which is specifically targeted a windows-based operating system and encrypt the whole hard drive, and to make the files accessible, you need to pay some money in bitcoin.

Following these two major attacks, the FBI sent out a public-service warning about such malware. According to them, these software are getting more advanced and can penetrate larger and ‘more secure’ systems.

Pakistan has also been affected by ransomware as well. Different variants of ransomware software were found to be affecting Pakistani businesses and individuals. Over the past few months, the DRF helpline has seen a large number of calls come in regarding ransomware and a lot of them had to do with a ransomware strand called ‘Stop’.

How it Works:

Ransomware is a type of malware that anonymously injects into the digital devices that encrypts all the content stored on your hard drive, and you cannot read your files anymore. To get your files in a readable format, a decryption key is required, which will then unlock all the files. However to get that decryption key, you must pay a ransom.

This creates a bit of a dilemma. Are you going to pay money to get your files back, or are you encouraging cyber criminals so they can spread this malware to target more people?

Paying ransom itself is a bad practice because there is no guarantee that you will get your files back, and in any case. Let’s suppose if you pay money to the attacker that they asked for, there are still chances that the attacker will not have a private key, or the key they gave to you is corrupted. So paying money to the attacker is not good practice as there is no guarantee that he will unlock your content. Let’s say you successfully managed to get your data back, on the other hand, the attackers start hunting more people.

This is only the first step you have to take if you faced a ransomware attack.

The second step is that you need to disconnect the internet from your devices so it cannot do further damage to your device and don’t spread the malware within the network. After this, you have to run an anti-malware tool in your device, and if it finds anything, remove it and restart your computer. If you don’t do this step and unlock your file, the malware is still in your system, which will reactivate itself. Additionally, whenever you see a ransom note appear on your device, it would be good practice to take a screenshot and send it to experts who can help you decrypt your files.

Sometimes while running an anti-malware software, corrupted files can be deleted in order to protect your device. This leads to a permanent loss of data. To avoid this from happening, the user can create a backup of the files on an empty external hard disk in order to prevent loss of data before running the anti-malware software. Once a decryption toolkit is made for the particular ransomware that affected your device, these files can be decrypted and restored.

There are many ways an attacker can infiltrate the network or can compromise your device. Cybercriminals can exploit your device, and usually, they take advantage of outdated versions of operating systems or software installed on your device.

Avoiding Ransomware Attacks:

  • If you received any suspicious attachment within the email, do not open it until you verify the source of this email
  • Make sure you are using an updated version of the operating system or software installed your device
  • Do not install unverified software into your device
  • If you received any suspicious short link via WhatsApp or Facebook or any other platform, copy the link and open the website link and paste the link there. It will show the actual website link behind the short link. This is just good practice to identify if someone wants to trick you.
  • Do not let someone attached USB into the USB port of your device.
  • And the most important thing is to make a local backup of your data

Microsoft’s built-in ransomware protection:

Microsoft recently introduced the feature known as ransomware protection, which users can use to protect the folder they want. You can enable this feature by going into the ransomware protection section.

You can find the whole sequence below:

Setting---> windows security--->virus threat protection--->in ransomware protection section click on---> Manage ransomware protection

Below is the screenshot

You can turn the above option “controlled folder access” on and pop up will appear, which asks your permission, and then you can see the list of protected folder and can add any folder you want.

In the above picture, you can see the protected folder. This means that no third party unverified software can make changes in the folders mentioned above, thus lowering the risk of data being compromised. If any unverified application tries to make changes in the folder that is already listed in the above directory, an error will appear at the user’s end.

(Note: In order to use Window’s anti-ransomware features, you must have the most up to date versions of Windows 10.) is the project where different IT security companies and law enforcement agencies are trying to help the people who got ransomware attacks on their devices and don’t know how to proceed further. They update their website regularly with new information on ‘trending’ ransomware attacks and software. With this, they release a decryption toolkit that can be used by victims in case of an attack. File uploading option is also available for the victim to check if there is decryption toolkit available for that specific variant. A feature on this website allows for users to upload the affected files. This feature, called the ‘Crypto Sheriff’ determines whether there is a solution. If there is, the ‘Crypto Sheriff’ will provide the victim with the solutions needed. You can access ‘Crypto Sheriff’ here

Aside from Window’s internal ransomware protection, there are multiple anti-malware tools one can use to protect their devices. One such tool is ‘MalwareBytes’. This software is able to conduct comprehensive scans and can identify threat. Additionally the software will quarantine and delete the affected files.

The DRF Helpline was established to help victims of online harassment. This includes people who have fallen victim to sensitive data leaks, and in recent times, ransomware attacks too.

The helpline can be reached at its toll free number, 0800-39393

October 17, 2019 - Comments Off on Tech & Mental Health: Are we better off?

Tech & Mental Health: Are we better off?

The digital revolution is evolving at an unstoppable pace. Alongside the unprecedented explosion of digital technology and systems, mental health is under greater pressure than ever before because there are more platforms than before, especially compared to when our parents were young there were only a few platforms such as msn, Myspace and Orkut etc. Now there is Facebook, Instagram,Twitter,TikTok,Snapchat,WhatsApp,LinkedIn, and many more. With its emphasis on big data, computing power, mobile technology, and network information, digital technology is set to transform health care also.

Social media might be a great workplace for some people but it also might cause depression and sometimes social anxiety for some other people as it shows them a  world of ease in which doing bare minimum gives what the person desires. Through social media networks the world looks so easy because they are not showing what goes on behind the scenes. We’ve seen that major chunk of the population affected by negativities online are children. Children tend to have a naive/immature thinking process or because they lack experience in general and have taken up examples from the wrong places. For the children, the people in the video are just running around and spending money but what they don't see is the planning and effort put into these things. This idealistic phenomenon creates a mindset that there is an easy way around and they don't have to care or take responsibility for their future is what stops the growth let it be in knowledge or overly.

One of the many examples from the influencer/YouTuber community which displays these attributes not entirely but to some extent, is that of a YouTuber named David Dobrik. This particular YouTuber makes daily life videos known as vlogs in which we can see him partying,spending enormous amounts of money and being friends with popular celebrities such as Charlie Puth , Kylie Jenner and Howie Mandel etc. 

The point of my emphasis is not to shame his efforts but that he himself does not put importance on what length of effort he has gone through to achieve this lifestyle he has today and since he doesn't have higher education like so many other influencers, youtubers and popular celebrities, it also creates a somewhat of a false idea of a loophole that children nowadays don't have to get educated fully and can achieve instant wealth and success with minimal effort.   

Nowadays platforms such as Instagram and YouTube have grown rapidly and there are these influencers and different types of youtubers like the one mentioned above which create this culture of superficial things but what they don’t realize is that they’re creating a culture of negativity. One of the many things which causes such pessimism is Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) which is a phenomenon that was born at the same time as Facebook and it has one of the most common negative effects of social media. This phenomenon basically is a form of anxiety that you get when you’re scared of missing out on a positive experience or emotions that someone else is getting.

It happens to everyone. You’ve been invited to go out for dinner with friends. But instead, you decide to stay back at home and get some work done. Of course you can’t help but wonder: what exactly are you missing out on? How much fun are they having without you there? Will there be inside jokes that you’re now not privy to?

This fear is fueled by your social media engagement. The more you use social networks, the more likely you are to see that someone is having more fun than you are right now. 

Instagram celebrities, if you look at the most-followed accounts on Instagram, you’ll find beautiful people wearing expensive clothes and their perfect lifestyle. All this has made Instagram toxic because it has made people conscious about each and everything about themselves. Today, body image has become an issue for both sexes. Of course, seeing perfection on a daily basis makes you conscious, you start comparing how different you look from those pictures and not everyone comes to the right conclusion in these situations.

Another phenomenon on the rise: Social media stars create negativity in the form of “cancel culture” which usually involves bullying others over a mistake or a contradiction in their view point, or due to some past actions. Although may be one of the two parties originally in an argument is doing something right but people especially children might be favoring bashing or shaming the other person  in order to be part of the popular group and not realizing the meaning behind such ordeals. This misinterpretation of such acts creates a norm which erodes a child's confidence and they start applying such behavior towards others in their life as well. 

Sometimes children justify it by saying that others do it too and become part of this illogical banter which gives a sort of an insight into a child’s mind. It tells us that he/she knows what they are doing is somewhat in the grey area. However there are some groups or social media leaders of the masses who humiliate and bully a person for his/her standpoint which differs from theirs on particular matters so then that person, mostly someone young, shuts downs his personal thought process and tries to align with the masses. 

One of the examples found online is that of Tati Westbrook (@glamlifeguru) and James Charles. A quick summary of their spat is that it came to light that James uses Tati’s rival company Sugar Hair Bears vitamins and she felt betrayed as she has a vitamin company herself and she saw James as her protege. What happened as a result of this online war is that all his negative doings came out and people started all of a sudden started hating him and he lost millions of subscribers within hours. What really aided this whole war further was the support Tati got from big-shot youtubers and her friends such as Shane dawson and Jeffree Star. All of this created this cynical atmosphere and people who didn't even know either of them started taking interest in them and it created an army and hashtags calling James Charles a liar , a bad friend and much more.

 This sort of negative behavior generates another problem which is grouping, and as the name suggests is basically people who find similar interests and viewpoints to create online groups whom sole purpose is to work on belittling those people online who differ from their stance on particular issues. 

One of many organizations working for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities is UNICEF, with the support of experts, is leading an effort to develop a data collection tool to capture information on adolescents’ mental health at a population level in low and middle income countries. Validation and adaptation of the tool in different contexts will involve a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches, including clinical validation of depression, anxiety and sociality.”

(Unicef website)

What this research by UNICEF would do is that it would aid the upcoming and existing generation to take up and create positivity let it be in the virtual or real world. Although there are organizations, such as UNICEF and  UNESCO, working for the betterment of children but we also need to take up some amount of responsibility. Parents are the key members in this development and what most parents need to realize is that things have changed drastically and technology has evolved to create more problems than before.

This know-it-all nature among the elderly has created distance among the parents and kids. This makes children think “what do my parents know about my experience? They did not go through something like this.” Parents should leave behind attitudes such as that they know best or that their experience as a child can explain the present. Parents need to meet their children halfway as well, get at level of their children and make an effort to learn what is going on. They need to be the ones with the change in such situation sometimes because if parents shut down or leave the problem for next day that makes a child conscious about his/her online and real life issues and its importance to their parents. What parents should do is take out time in such situations and implement some measures and rules in their respective household. Measures like restricting their time on the internet, to try to find out what they are doing in general by engaging in meaningful conversation and talking about whether they need help regarding things. Although these measures might seem small but they make a huge difference in the longer term. The impact they hold is that the child knows that if he/she needs help regarding anything he/she could seek it and they would not be put down and also  in this way the parents can get to know what is happening in the child’s online world and their viewpoints and their intake from a negative or positive issue. In such a situation the discussion could give strength to a child because if his/her standpoint is fair no matter what the other one says they would know that they are doing the right thing due to a parent/elderly’s support.

This article on mental health and technology is written by our lovely intern Priya Zaidi who is doing her A-levels currently.

October 09, 2019 - Comments Off on Your Data, Your Rules

Your Data, Your Rules

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), in its landmark judgement has held that the controversial “right to be forgotten” requests from within the European Union can lead to removal of information only within the EU and does not apply globally.

Initially, in 2016, Google had filed an appeal against the decision of CNIL, French privacy watchdog, which required Google to remove information under the right to be forgotten from search engines globally. The ruling now means that tech companies will have to use geo-blocking to comply with removal requests under the right to be forgotten.

Digital Rights Foundation and 12 other NGOs also joined the petition to argue that a singular law or state should not be able to determine what kind of information is included or excluded in another part of the world as this will become a major threat to freedom of expression, activists or organisations working against human rights violations in their respective countries or even advocating for progressive changes in the society.

The court also recognised concerns about how the right to free speech or expression and the right to be forgotten is not being used in balanced or fair approach in multiple states which has the potential for serious implications on the society.

The court said,

“…it should be emphasised that numerous third States do not recognise the right to de-referencing or have a different approach to that right. Moreover, the right to the protection of personal data is not an absolute right, but must be considered in relation to its function in society and be balanced against other fundamental rights, in accordance with the principle of proportionality… Furthermore, the balance between the right to privacy and the protection of personal data, on the one hand, and the freedom of information of internet users, on the other, is likely to vary significantly around the world.”

The Digital Rights Foundation along with 12 other organizations appeared as petitioners represented by barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, Jude Bunting and Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers, along with avocat Thomas Haas.

On this petition, all the petitioners strive to protect basic human rights including the right to freedom of speech.

October 09, 2019 - Comments Off on Internet Wins

Internet Wins

There have been multiple incidents reported regarding Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) blocking websites without following legal procedures. When websites and platforms have been blocked, there is no opportunity to challenge these decisions by PTA.

On 12th of September 2019, the Islamabad high court issued a detailed order regarding these blockages as a response to a petition filed by Awami Workers Party, a left-wing political party registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). PTA had blocked AWP’s website in the middle of their election campaign without any prior notice, warning or legal grounds. The AWP sees this action as another attack on progressive voices in the country which are only trying to exercise their constitutional and democratic rights by becoming a part of the electoral process. 

During the hearing, IHC shared that it was not just AWP but over 800,000 other websites have been blocked by PTA. AWP Islamabad’s information secretary, Shahzeb stated that they were surprised to see how the document which was supposed to explain why PTA took this action was missing from the document PTA submitted in the court. He also said that PTA admitted to not following rules established before taking any such action according to Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act 2016. 

It also interesting to see how section 37 PECA 2016 allows blocking of content which is against “glory of lslam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, public order, decency or morality” but does not define what any of these phrases, such as “glory of Islam”, mean. Using such vague and broad criteria for online censorship violates the basic principles of free speech enshrined in article 19-A of the constitution which ensures the right to freedom of expression and information.

In the landmark judgement which is seen as the victory for internet in Pakistan, IHC also stated PTA’s practice of blocking websites as violation of principles of natural justice. Taking a closer look at the whole process also puts light on how the state, while trying to hide how it has been violating the social contract it has with the citizens has been trying to silence the people and organisations being critical on issues while voicing their concerns through digital platforms. 

The court has also ordered PTA to work with the government to form better and more transparent mechanisms and rules within three months. 

“After going through the whole experience of this case and being politically affected by the actions by PTA in the name of alleged hate speech, AWP has realised how digital rights and spaces hold and immense importance hence, they will soon be planning an awareness campaign for citizens on how reclaiming digital spaces is equally important as organizing the masses around human rights and other socio-political questions” said Shahzeb, information secretary AWP Islamabad. 

August 28, 2019 - Comments Off on Women In Journalism

Women In Journalism

So it is a well-known fact that journalism isn’t the safest option one can choose. A journalist exposes his/her views to the public, thus exposing a part of themselves. Be it a small scale freelance journalist or a major famous journalist, these polarizing opinions produce differing opinions and fuel arguments. Of-course there are people who argue rationally, respecting other opinions but the problem occurs when respect is thrown out of the window. When journalists’ online presence threatens their very existence. The word ‘existence’ here can unfortunately be used both generally and specifically.

Specifically, when most of these journalists holding unorthodox views present their views over a medium, they almost always have to face serious threats to themselves and their loved ones. The threats range from cyber-bullying, cyberstalking, cyber-harassment and public shaming to murder threats and enforced disappearances. From 2012 to 2016, UNESCO reported the killing of 530 journalists, two per week. Unsurprisingly, 56% of these deaths happened in developing countries or countries experiencing military conflicts. Unfortunate examples like that of Jamal Khashoggi show us that the growth of internet has done no favor to the status quo. The Fifth Domain has just provided another medium for these threats to circulate through, effectively worsening the situation. 

Having taken a look at all of these issues, it will still not be unreasonable to suggest that being a woman in journalism is a completely different ball game. Obviously all the issues presented above still affect women that are present in the journalism industry. In that essence, I guess calling the situation of women a completely “different” ball game might not entirely be true. A better explanation could be that women face all the issues men have to go through and more. 

While men are criticized, threatened or attacked due to their beliefs, most of the time women don’t even get the luxury of having their opinions conveyed. Even at a platform where their voices are broadcasted, they are shunned for things completely unrelated to their journalistic abilities. Comments about their appearance, their clothes, the way they speak and the amount of make-up they wear (or don’t wear). Similarly, the threats made to women are much more severe and appalling, ranging from sexual harassment to rape threats. Women are called “whores” and threatened to be paraded naked in the streets as a “walk of shame” over the internet. In certain instances, the faces of these journalists are copied on to explicit and sometimes even pornographic images and shared around the internet as memes. The issue, however, will only get worse with the improvement in technology. The above mentioned problem has been made worse with the use of deep-fake technology, creating fake compromising videos which are becoming more and more believable every passing day. 

This campaign of character assassination is possible because of the idea that women are “easy targets”. From the very beginning, the society believes that women have to be non-confrontational, that they have to be passive, that they have to stay neutral to harassment. This difference between problems faced by men and the problems faced by women exist, and it is accompanied with tragic outcomes that usually involve violence against women and deterioration of physical and mental health of women.

The day criticism on both sides of the gender scale is homogenous, would be a day of incredible celebrations and joy.

Generally, however, these issues affect journalism on a whole. Women for these reasons have stopped covering or presenting their opinions on the internet. It has narrowed the scope of intellectual discussion. In many senses, journalism is what’s supposed to take a society forward. To provide a society new topics to debate over. To bring up ideas that haven’t been talked about before and spark up discussion, inviting opinions and getting through to the public. Journalism is not only supposed to spark a debate amongst the educated, but also educate the uneducated. All of this stops when we as a society stop inviting opinions. It stops when women are harassed on and off the internet for presenting their opinions, even worse, for just being a woman.   


Mohammad Owais Sabri is an Alevels student at LACAS

August 28, 2019 - Comments Off on 66 women’s rights, human rights, digital rights and feminists groups endorse statement on internet blackout in Kashmir

66 women’s rights, human rights, digital rights and feminists groups endorse statement on internet blackout in Kashmir

We, a coalition of 66 women's rights, human rights, digital rights and feminists groups, condemn in the strongest possible terms the blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression, access to information, movement and peaceful assembly by the Indian government through a blanket network and internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir since the evening of August 4, 2019. We believe that access to communication networks, including the internet, is a fundamental human right and the current media blackout is tantamount to silencing the voices of millions of residents in Jammu and Kashmir.

We recognise that the current situation is not an aberration, it is rather part of a systematic effort by the BJP-led government to silence and exclude dissent from the region: the current internet and network shutdown is part of larger pattern of regular shutdowns in the disputed region; in 2019 alone 51 internet shutdowns have been imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. The right to access communication networks is an important prerequisite to the exercise to other democratic and fundamental rights, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been systematically denied these rights.

It worries us that the latest shutdown has been expanded to block all communication, landline phones and cable TV in addition to the internet. Since August 4, 2019 there has been a complete media blackout on information inside and outside the conflict-ridden valley, in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has been ratified by India:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

The humanitarian impact of this blackout is palatable as family members have been unable to reach their loved ones inside Jammu and Kashmir. Freedom of movement has also severely restricted as curfew imposed under section 144 to stop movement during the day. These restrictions have thwarted the access basic services such as emergency medical care--the human cost of this blackout is immeasurable. Businesses in the region have suffered irreparable losses, devastating the local economy. 5,000 arrests have been made in a clampdown since the communications blackout started.

This communication blackout has been instrumentalized to remove a provision (Article 370) of the Indian Constitution that directly impacts the autonomy of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We are extremely concerned that the pairing of the blackout with the passage of the constitutional amendment points towards a dangerous and draconian approach to democratic decision-making--the people of region cannot express their opinions regarding the decision and possibly have no way of knowing that the legal status of their home has drastically changed. We believe that communication networks during times of conflict and political turmoil are important to prevent further human rights violations and arbitrary measures. Given the excesses of the Indian army in the past, the lack of information and reporting from the region is extremely concerning.

We also condemn the uneven application of community guidelines and content regulation by social media companies such as Twitter to silence users critiquing the official narrative of the Modi-led Indian government and amplifying the voices of Kashmiris on the ground. According to estimates, more than 200 Twitter accounts have been suspended for posting about Kashmir. Furthermore notices have been sent to Twitter users for allegedly “violating the laws of India”. At a time when voices of people from the region are being systematically excluded, these suspensions and notices amount to gross negligence on the part of social media companies.

The United Nations has termed this communications blackout as “unprecedented”, “disproportionate” and constituting “collective punishment”. David Kaye, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression, stated: “I can’t recall a situation where there has been a total blackout of not only the two-way, multi-point communication systems that we are familiar with now – anything on the internet, WhatsApp etc – but also the one-direction communications like TV”.

We urge that urgent and strict action be taken by the international community to address the international law violations. We demand that the blanket ban on communication network be lifted with immediate effect. We stand in solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their legitimate struggle for the right to determination.

August 28, 2019


Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell (AGHS) 
ASR Resource Centre 
Association for Behavior and Knowledge Transformation (ABKT) 
Aurat Foundation
Aurat Haq
Aurat March Karachi
Aurat March Lahore
AwazFoundationPakistan: Centre for Development Services 
Balochistan Media Association
Beaconhouse National University Feminist Community
Bolo Bhi, Pakistan
Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) 
Center for Artificial Intelligence
Center for Cyber Security Pakistan 
Center for Cyber Security Pakistan 
Centre for Social Justice 
Christian Muslim Peace 
Combine FiOS
Courting the Law, Pakistan
Damen Support Programme
Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), Pakistan
Farmers Development Organization FDO Pakistan
Freedom Network 
Girls at Dhabas
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan 
Human Rights Defenders United for Digital Rights
Institute for Peace and Secular Studies 
Institute of Research, Advocacy and development (IRADA), Pakistan
Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan 
Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan 
Joint Action Committee 
Khwendo kor
Media Matters for Democracy 
Minorities Rights Watch 
Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights
Omar Asghar Khan Foundation 
Pakistan Press Foundation 
Participatory Welfare Services - PWS
Participatory Welfare Services, Layyah
Peasants women society Pakistan 
Quetta City Live
Shirkat Gah - Women’s Resource Centre 
Social Action Transformation of Humanity (SATH Pakistan)
South Asia Partnership - Pakistan 
SPACE (Sufism for Peace & Co-existence)
Takhleeq Foundation

The Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF)
The SAWERA Foundation 

War Against Rape (WAR), Lahore
Women Action Forum Hyderabad 
Women Action Forum Islamabad 
Women Action Forum Karachi 
Women Action Forum Lahore 
Women Democratic Front 
Women’s Regional Network
Youth Observatory Pakistan

International Organisations 

Afro Leadership Cameroon
Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE)
Freedom Forum Nepal
Internet Sans Frontières

August 05, 2019 - Comments Off on A beginner’s guide to cybercrime and ways to ensure protection against it

A beginner’s guide to cybercrime and ways to ensure protection against it

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is defined as an activity in which a computer or other electronic networking device is involved in an illegal activity for pursuing financial or personal gain. A cyber criminal is someone who uses a digital device to gain access to a person’s personal information, confidential business information, government information or disable a device through illegal means among other activities. A majority of cases of cybercrime involve hacking and exploiting/blackmailing personal data of an individual or a company and selling/disseminating it online for financial or other reasons.

The types of cybercrime:

Under the new cybercrime law Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, here are a list of cybercrime acts under the law marked as illegal:

  1. Unauthorized access to information system or data (PECA s.3)
  2. Glorification of an offence or encouraging that offence (PECA s.9)
  3. Coercing, intimidating, a sense of fear, panic and insecurity to ignite sectarian or ethnic hatred shall be punished with imprisonment for long term and a fine of 10 million rupees (s.10 of PECA)
  4. Use of internet services or software to defraud individuals or defame them (s.14 PECA)
  5. Intentionally spreading false information about a person which is known to be false and is exploiting the privacy and safety of the given individual (s.20 PECA)
  6. Intentionally and publicly exhibiting sensitive images and videos of an individual to harm their reputation or financial gain, blackmail, hatred shall punish the perpetuator with a jail term for 5 years or longer. (S.21 PECA)
  7. Intentionally producing, offering, or making available sexually explicit conduct of a minor without lawful justification (s.22, s.24 PECA)

A full copy of the cybercrime Act can be read here

How do you report cybercrime?

If you or an individual you know is facing harassment, intimidation or blackmail online, then here is a list of ways you can report to the authorities and bring the harasser to justice:

  1. Cyber harassment helpline by DRF: 0800-39393
  2. Register a complaint with your nearest cybercrime unit of the FIA (National Response Centre for Cyber Crime) by submitting a written application along with printed copies of evidence.
  3. The CPLC (Citizens Police Liaisons Committee) has set up a women’s complaint cell aimed at dealing with issues such as harassment, stalking and blackmail around the country. You can reach out to them using their phone number 1102, 021-35662222, 021-35682222.
  4. Madadgar National Helpline deals with helping women suffering from violence. You can reach out to their helpline service: (+92) 1098.
  5. If you are experiencing mental health issues due to online harassment you can seek psychological help at Rozan: 0800-22444.
Mahnoor jalal is currently doing her major in Liberal Arts from Beaconhouse National University

July 26, 2019 - Comments Off on Data Protection Legislations around the world

Data Protection Legislations around the world

When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was signed in 2016 (and ratified in 2018), it replaced the ancient law regarding data protection which was signed in 1995. It can be appropriately referred to as ancient because in today’s world, the pace at which new technology is surfacing is both astonishing and hard to keep up with. For example, in 1995 (when the EU passed its previous data protection law), Google was not even registered as a domain name. This shows just how quickly the technological landscape is evolving and with every new discovery, come new threats to the privacy of the citizen. Actions that were never thought to be possible are possible today and they pose a huge threat to individuals’ privacy.

Keeping in mind all the problems mentioned, the GDPR is considered by many to be the “Gold Standard” of data protection laws around the world. It keeps in mind many problems that have been swept under the rug before including audit trails of consent, the right to be forgotten (conditional) and unconditional adherence to the law itself disregarding where the organization in question originates from.

With all that said, the GDPR is only implemented in the EU. The situation of data protection in the rest of the world varies greatly. Some countries have data protection laws that match up to the GDPR while some countries don’t even have a legislation catering to the privacy of its citizens. The countries proven by the EU to have an adequate data protection legislation are:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • The entire EU (Since the United Kintgdom still hasn’t exited the EU, the data inside the UK is protected by the GDPR)
  • Uruguay

Some countries have legislation that is considered partially adequate by the EU. Those countries are:

  • Canada
  • USA

A lot of countries have data protection laws but they are considered inadequate in the modern times by the EU. Those countries are:

  • Angola
  • Bahamas
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Burkina Faso
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Ghana
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Ivory Coast
  • Jamaica
  • Lesotho
  • Madagascar
  • Malavi
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Oman
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • Senegal
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • UAE
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia


Any country that isn’t mentioned in the list above either doesn’t have a data protection law or doesn’t have any data regarding its legislation. However, a few countries are in the legislation making process and they may have a data protection law in the near future. These countries include:

  • Brazil
  • Ecuador
  • Honduras
  • Iraq
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Zimbabwe



Mohammad Owais Sabri is an Alevels student at LACAS




July 15, 2019 - Comments Off on What to do if your sensitive information is leaked online

What to do if your sensitive information is leaked online


Earlier this year, a girl in Badin district of Sindh committed suicide.The reports revealed later that she was being blackmailed online by some local boys over her edited pictures. The perpetrators sent the edited images to her fiance and the engagement was called off. The blackmailing and shaming has been identified by the police as a cause of the suicide. 

These unfortunate incidents are not uncommon. A couple of years ago, Naila Rind a student at Sindh University, committed suicide following exploitation and blackmail by her ex-partner after the two exchanged photos of an intimate nature.

Blackmailing with sensitive images is a form of sexual violence that is derived by an intent to shame, control, humiliate, extort and terrorize victims. Being blackmailed with the threat of distribution of your pictures or discovering intimate images of yourself online posted without your consent can leave severe emotional damage and physical repercussions for a person. This has pushed so many people, mostly women, towards committing suicide in extreme case due to the cultural pressure of shame and guilt. 

It’s important that we are aware of our digital rights and the laws which exist to protect those rights. 

What does the law say about it? 

In reference to Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016:
Intentionally and publicly exhibiting sensitive images and videos which is harmful to a natural person or his reputation to take revenge, blackmail or create hatred shall be punished under s21 of PECA for a term which may extend to five years.

Even if the pictures or videos were initially shared  with someone consensually they have no right to share it with other people or use them online.

Blackmailing people with their intimate and sensitive images and threatening to upload or distribute those images to the victim’s family is equally punishable under law.

What to do if your sensitive images or videos are leaked online? 

Don't Panic:

it is inevitable to feel anxious and overwhelmed at this trying time but try disengaging from these feelings for a bit and finding ways to get through it. It may seem hard but it’s not impossible.

Know your rights:

The intention of the perpetrator is to control you by trapping you into guilt or cycle of blackmail. Know that the only person who is guilty of offense is the person who is withholding your data without your consent and blackmailing you to distribute it to other people.

Look for online removal of your data:

If you discover your sensitive images or videos online, try to look for the reporting mechanism of the website and file a copyright complaint asking to remove your data. Social media websites already have built in mechanisms to deal with such privacy violations.

Report to law enforcement authorities:

There are more than 15 Cybercrime Wings of FIA working throughout the country to enforce the law. Go to your nearest FIA office and file a complaint. Make sure that you gather all the evidence and print it out before you go along with an application addressed to the Deputy Director of the relevant FIA office.

Help is just a ring away:

If you are unable to report sensitive information or get it removed, know that you can call us on our cyber harassment helpline and we will help escalate the process in getting them removed.
Even if you’re feeling emotional distress, you can call us and our mental health expert. This is a traumatic experience and it is completely normal for someone to feel violated.

June 21, 2019 - Comments Off on Journalists Safety, Welfare and Protection Bill: recommendations

Journalists Safety, Welfare and Protection Bill: recommendations

DRF held a number of consultations with its Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights (NWJDR) as well as other journalists to discuss the Journalists Safety, Welfare and Protection Bill and propose recommendations to the Ministry of Information. The recommendations are as follows:

  1. Impartiality and transparency
    1. If contributions to the safety fund can be made by any entity, there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that donors cannot assert their will as to where/how the funds are utilised.
    2. Some journalists believe that the funding sources ought to be regulated as it will be impossible for the council, prosecutor, fund etc to stay impartial if majority of the funding comes from a single source.
    3. Mechanisms must be in place to ensure that the council remains independent in fulfilling its duties.
    4. Mechanisms must be in place to ensure that the Special Prosecutor under the bill, who will make major decisions under the bill, including who to prosecute, is able to make these decisions without being swayed. This is especially important as some cases may be against state agencies.
  2. Scope and Definitions

    1. Although the bill is fairly inclusive, it should be more explicit in recognising freelance / independent journalists in order to ensure that key stakeholders, who are sometimes the most vulnerable, are not left out.
    2. Protections to apply to print, electronic and social media equally so that the right to freedom of expression is extended to all forms of media.
    3. Protection against criminal and civil action for defamation and reporting on issues of public importance.
  3. Enforcement

    1. The bill should include provisions that make it mandatory for media houses to maintain certain workplace standards including separate bathrooms for men and women, maternity leave, reporting mechanisms for harassment, regular training for journalists’ physical security
    2. The bill should directly penalise media houses that do not maintain these standards.
  4. Digital Safety

    1. Seeing as digital spaces have created large scale expansion of the mediums of expression used by journalists, the bill ought to include digital safety and security of journalists (as online violence can lead to physical violence).
    2. Journalists should not be barred from using VPNs.
    3. Reporting of online harassment cases should be streamlined through the National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C), FIA taking up cases with urgency.
    4. Withdraw notification on regulating encryption-based communication.
    5. Guidelines and regulations for media houses to implement digital security and safety of their employees.
  5. Accessibility

    1. This Bill should be applied to the peripheral regions of Pakistan, such as Gilgit-Baltistan.