All Posts in Cyber Security

September 21, 2015 - Comments Off on Standing Comm. Passes Draft of PECB, Unseen by Comm. Members

Standing Comm. Passes Draft of PECB, Unseen by Comm. Members

On September 17th 2015, the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Information Technology passed the final draft form of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, which will now be sent to the National Assembly for final approval.

Disturbingly, members of the committee were not shown the draft form of the bill before its passage. PPP MNAs Shazia Marri and Nauman Islam Sheikh, and PML-N MNA Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari, rightly objected, stressing that the draft bill could not be approved until they and the other members of the committee had read the finalised draft.

Capt Mohammad Safdar (Ret'd), Standing Committee chairman, overruled these objections, saying that as he had seen the draft, that would be sufficient grounds to pass the draft.

Final Draft of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, September 17th 2015.

See our previous and ongoing coverage of the cybercrimes bill, here:

July 8, 2014 - Comments Off on Pakistan responds to the NSA Surveillance of PPP

Pakistan responds to the NSA Surveillance of PPP

United States' National Security Agency (NSA) was granted permission to spy on six political parties, over a dozen global organizations, and all but four world governments, according to a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) certification leaked by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The organizations NSA was authorized to spy on include United Nations and World Bank as well as Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).

The top-secret FISC certification, posted by Washington Post on their website on June 30th, 2014, and other related documents that the Post has not yet shared, allow the NSA to intercept not just the communication directly originating to or from the targets mentioned above, but also any communication about them. This, we imagine, can be a very broad spectrum.

In response to DRF Director Nighat Dad's tweet asking if any member of the Pakistan People's Party was willing to speak on the unlawful NSA activity, Sharmila Faruqi, former advisor to the Chief Minister of Sindh, said that the revelation was akin to "intruding our privacy and sovereign rights [and thus] highly condemnable." She added that this "should be agitated at the highest forum."

Speaking on the same matter, former PPP Interior Minister Rehman Malik revealed that during the PPP tenure in 2012, cabinet meetings were being spied on. "The secret recording signals were traced during a random security sweeping before the cabinet meeting and after that the recording signals were broke down before the cabinet meeting," he said. He feared that the cabinet meetings of the present government might also be under surveillance. He was, however, unaware of who might be behind the recording signals. He suggested the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif take up the matter with the US President Barak Obama through a formal letter.

PPP later issued a statement highly critical of the practice calling it "grave, unwarranted and totally unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign country." The statement, issued by the PPP spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar, demanded an apology from the US for "spying on the political institutions of a sovereign country." It also asked the government to take up this matter at the diplomatic level and demand that such violation of international law doesn't happen again.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO), later on Thursday, formally lodged a protest with the US over the surveillance of PPP, calling the practice a violation of the international law and demanding an end it. "Appropriate measures are being taken to protect our cyber communication from any attack or spying," FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said in her statement.

PPP has also lodged a formal protest with the United States through a letter to the Ambessador of United States in Pakistan, Mr. Richard G. Olson. The letter expresses grave disappointment over the matter. "The Party believes that it owes no explanation to any foreign agency," the letter said, "It therefore strongly resents and deplores the overbearing attitude of the NSA in assuming a right to interfere in other countries and their political parties. This attitude of a department of the US government towards a popular Pakistani political party will only increase distrust and suspicion already noticeably present in the people of Pakistan towards the government of the United States."

This post is first part of a series on the unlawful surveillance of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) by the NSA.

January 2, 2014 - Comments Off on Training Workshop: Security for Women in Digital Age

Training Workshop: Security for Women in Digital Age

Security for Women in Digital Age

Venue: Crystal Ball, Marriott hotel, Islamabad

Date: 13:30 - 17:00, January 9, 2014

Trainer: Nighat Dad (Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan)

In this digital age, it has become even easier than before to be stalked, intruded and harassed. During these times of fast digital innovation, it is important for women to assess their risks online, analyse them and browse securely.

"Security for Women in the Digital Age" workshop will focus on why it is important for women to be cautious about their privacy online. The session will look on the cases in Pakistan where women and girls have been harassed and threatened online. It will then move on to a small digital security training empowering the attendees with basic tools to stay secure in the digital spaces.

For more details, please join our Facebook event page or visit the website.

- With support from Tactical Technology Collective

January 2, 2014 - Comments Off on "Unseen War" – Screening of a Short Film on Drones by Tactical Tech

"Unseen War" – Screening of a Short Film on Drones by Tactical Tech

“Unseen War” Tactical Tech’s film Screening on 11th January, 2014

Venue: Crystal Ball B, Marriott hotel, Islamabad

Date: 15:00 - 17:00 11th January, 2014

Digital Rights Foundation is pleased to invite you to a special screening of “Unseen War” on 11th January, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm at the Crystal Ball B, Marriott Hotel at Cyber Secure Pakistan 2014.

“Unseen War” is one of the films from the series of Tactical Tech’s project of short films “Exposing the Invisible”. This short film changes the angle slightly and explores the physical, moral and political invisibility of US drone strikes in Pakistan.

Team of Exposing the Invisible speaks to journalists, activists and experts inside and outside of Pakistan about the consequences of the strikes in the tribal FATA region, why they are possible, and how we can make the issue more visible using data and visualization tactics.

The screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion on the cases shown in the film; how activism is transforming in Pakistan, and how it effects us.


Moderator: Usama Khilji


  • Marek Tuszynski - Tactical Technology Collective (Skype)
  • Abdullah Saad – Technology expert
  • Ammar Jafferi – Chairman PISA
  • Taha Siddqui – Freelance journalist
  • Shahzad Akbar – Reprieve UK


DRF and PISA look forward to your participation in making this screening a success!

For more, join our Facebook event page or visit the website.

December 30, 2013 - Comments Off on Pakistan bottom of the barrel on net freedom: Report

Pakistan bottom of the barrel on net freedom: Report

Team Digital Rights Foundation carried out the research on "Freedom on the Net 2013" Pakistan country report along with the international Freedom House editors and researchers. Tribune Pakistan's coverage:

Government creating and installing new equipment to systemise website blocking and filtering, new report finds. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

KARACHI: Pakistan is among the bottom ten countries in the Freedom on the Net 2013 report, which measures the level of internet and digital media freedom in 60 countries. The annual report is carried out by Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization.

In the new report, each country received a numerical score from 0 (the most free) to 100 (the least free), which serves as the basis for internet freedom status. Pakistan received a score of 67 and status ‘not free’, whereas Iceland was at the top with a score of just 6.

The Pakistan section of the report was conducted just after the elections held on May 11, 2013 and covered the developments regarding internet freedom between the time period May 2012 – April 2013. It was researched and compiled by Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan along with research analysts of Freedom House.

“Pakistan remains one of the worst countries when it comes to online freedom of speech, user rights and citizens’ privacy”, commented Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director, Nighat Dad.  “In the past year, state has been rigorously trying to implement the best of surveillance set-ups to create a kind of watchdog upon activists, journalists and a common citizen on the name of war against terrorism. Pakistan’ civil society, despite being faced with threats and vicious consequences, is strongly fighting against the state-employed policies and technologies that can hurt Pakistani citizen”.

Main findings

Even though the number of internet users in the country is increasing, the Pakistan reportstates that there have been various political and social obstacles by successive governments that came into power, in the name of fighting terrorism and preserving Islam.

This has caused problems for many civil rights activists, students and other such personnel who want to engage in intensive multimedia training, the report concluded.

According to the report:

“Legal measures also threatened digital rights, particularly over sensitive religious issues. At least two of the 23 criminal investigations launched in 2012 under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws—which carry the death penalty—involved content sent by mobile phone. A Twitter spat escalated into a defamation suit after a political website accused a religious leader of inciting hatred”.

Obstacles to access

According to the report, “Low literacy, difficult economic conditions, and cultural resistance have limited the proliferation of ICTs in Pakistan. Poor copper wire infrastructure and inadequate monitoring of service quality by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) have historically stymied the expansion of broadband internet.”

Only urban cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar have access to better quality broadband services, the report found.

Additionally, the report cited “bureaucratic hurdles” as having caused a problem for development of 3G or 4G networks.

Access to the internet has been deliberately obstructed by the Pakistani authorities in Balochistan where there has been persistent conflict between the Baloch nationalists and the security forces, the report stated.

Limits on content

Some of the major developments by the government in 2012 and 2013 included creating and installing new equipment to systemise website blocking and filtering, the report found.

Despite such blocking, the report concluded that Pakistanis have relatively open access to international news organizations and other independent media, as well as a range of websites representing Pakistani political parties, local civil society groups, and international human rights organizations.

“Nevertheless, most online commentators exercise a degree of self-censorship when writing on topics such as religion, blasphemy, separatist movements, and women’s and LGBT rights,” it added.


Ordinary internet users as well as activists, bloggers, and media representatives in Balochistan are concerned about government surveillance as they feel restricted to openly talk about their religious beliefs, particularly atheists.

In February 2013, the upper house of parliament passed the Fair Trial Act 2012 allows security agencies to seek a judicial warrant to monitor private communications “to neutralize and prevent threat or any attempt to carry out scheduled offenses;” and covers information sent from or received in Pakistan or between Pakistani citizens whether they are resident in the country or not. Under the law, service providers face a one-year jail term or a fine of up to PKR 10 million for failing to cooperate with the warrant.

According to the report, “Pakistan is also reported to be a long-time customer of Narus, a US-based firm known for designing technology that allows for monitoring of traffic flows and deep-packet inspection of internet communications, and some media reports say Pakistani authorities have also acquired surveillance technology from China.”

Originally published on Tribune.

November 13, 2013 - Comments Off on Summary of Cyber Security Awareness Seminar, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

Summary of Cyber Security Awareness Seminar, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

The second Cyber Security Awareness Seminar was held at LUMS in collaboration with the Cyber Security Task Force and the Pakistan Information Security Association (PISA) on November 5th, 2013. The primary goal of this seminar was to highlight the increasing threats of Cyber Crimes and Cyber Terrorism.

The seminar saw the participation of LUMS students and faculty members; civil judges and research fellows at the Lahore High Court; the Additional Advocate General; various members of the business community and civil society representatives including Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan.

The session was inaugurated with an introduction by Mr Ammar Jaffri, the Chairman Cyber Security Task Force. He went on to describe the audience about the threat perception in cyber space and mentioned about the counter measures taken up by the Cyber Security Task Force.

Following Mr. Jaffri was Barrister Zahid Jameel, Head of the Legal Committee for Drafting the Cyber Security Bill 2013. He discussed legal issues and challenges faced with regards to cyber security and the impediments faced by him and his committee while introducing the Cyber Security Bill 2013.

Dr Ashraf Masood, Dean NUST MCS, briefly explained about the cyber security policy adopted in Pakistan. He was then followed up by Mr. Shahid Hassan, Deputy Director of the FIA, who narrated his experience of the special cyber security training he had received in India.

The session was continued by Mr. Tariq Sheikh, Manager Customer Support and Training at LUMS, who brought forth the challenges and issues faced at LUMS in terms of cyber security. Seminar was concluded by a session from Mr. Tahir Chaudhry, Head Cyber Security Awareness Campaign who brought forth cyber issues faced by students and the general public. He provided some valuable tips on how to secure personal information online.

Finally, a summation followed all these presentations with closing remarks given by Professor Abid Hussain Imam, Assistant Professor at Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law, who then opened the Q & A session.

Session summary by Muhammad Farooq - volunteer, Digital Rights Foundation