THE national security domains have expanded and evolved over the years. Conventional methods and technologies to deal with the threats that pose danger to a nation and its people have become obsolete and they may not work in this digital age.
The digital footprint of a nation, information about its people, both public and personal, is as valuable as a physical asset that a nation or an individual holds.
In the last few years, cyber and data espionage have passed dangerous levels. Coming from an engineering and information technology background, the thing that keeps me worried all the time is the threat of malicious actors getting into the IT systems and stealing sensitive information.
The cyberattack vectors have increased threefold in the last five years and what is more worrisome is the fact that people playing this dirty game have also become smarter. A dangerous angle to this game is that almost all the nations, East or West, developed or underdeveloped, have established cyber warfare as a primary mode of attack.
If and when boots on the ground or human espionage is not an option, cyberattacks are generously exploited to bring a nation down. Propaganda through social media and spreading disinformation is an added spice to this unholy war that we see and experience on daily basis.
Shutting down of energy grids, disrupting air and ground traffic, planting spyware in a mission’s critical system, hacking into financial institutions and getting hold of personal or national information is becoming dangerously common.
Imagine a scenario where you can no longer have access to your bank accounts, emails or social media. Imagine a clandestine agency gets hold of your personal information and shares everything about you, family and friends with agencies of non-friendly countries for profiling purposes. Imagine your health records, blood type, voice, facial and retina scans being shared. If this does not scare you, I wonder what else would.
Just a few months ago, in a cyberattack, the website of a large and well-reputed bank in Pakistan got compromised. This raises an interesting question: are important organisations, like the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra), and financial institutions holding important digital information across Pakistan secure?
With growing cyber threats, we need to put in place systems and mechanism aimed at securing military and non-military digital and cyber domains in Pakistan.
It is time to evaluate every aspect of the country’s digital footprint, and, more importantly, make every possible effort to secure it. Cyber security is a moving target and utmost vigilance is needed to keep ahead of the curve.
Nouman Khalid Jan
Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2022