“Securing Pakistan’s Cyber Domain: Challenges and Opportunities,”
March 16, 2022
In his introductory remarks Malik Qasim Mustafa, Director ACDC-ISSI, said that the growing reliance on cyberspace has fundamentally transformed every facet of our lives. It has the potential to revolutionise our future including our national security as contemporary global communication and connectivity is becoming increasingly dependent on cyber technologies. Pakistan has already embarked upon this path of digital transformation under the slogan “Digital Pakistan.” To materialise this digital transformation, Pakistan has taken several initiatives including drafting Pakistan’s Cyber Security Policy 2021 and it attaches top priority to securing Pakistan’s cyberspace in its National Security Policy 2022-2026.
Dr Siraj Ahmed Shaikh, Professor of Systems Security, Coventry University, United Kingdom, while speaking on “Ensuring Cyber Safety and Security of Critical Infrastructure” emphasised the maturity of the security domain and the importance of risk and risk ownership while dealing with cyber threats. He said that local adoption of standards and best practices are very important in dealing with cyber attacks. He also emphasised the need for mature regulations while dealing with cyber threats.
Dr Haider Abbas, Director, National Cyber Security Auditing & Evaluation Lab, MCS-NUST, while talking about “National Information Security: Lessons for Pakistan” said that global systems are increasingly complex, which increasingly rely on the cyberworld. These systems are at risk in the cyber domain which can be lethal for critical infrastructure. He talked about hybrid or fifth-generation warfare whereby military systems combined with cyber warfare are targeting countries that are a challenge for every country. He said that Pakistan ranks 79 on the global cybersecurity index ranking 2020 in terms of cybersecurity measures taken. Pakistan is facing cyber attacks against people, organizations and the government. Talking about lessons for Pakistan he suggested national vulnerability assessment centre and national crime and coordination centre should be established, and there should be a collaboration with the private sector and international cybersecurity research organisations.
Prof Dr Khashif Kifayat, Director, National Centre for Cybersecurity, Air University, Islamabad, spoke on “Building National Cyber Disaster Recovery Model and Challenges for Pakistan” and said there are layers or categories of assets in terms of critical infrastructure. Bank, industry, business, government organisations are all part of it and should be protected and be prepared against cyberattacks. He said that national assets should be protected and there should be proper mechanisms in place but it is equally important how to ensure compliance with security measures. He emphasised that the general public is also an asset and suggested that an awareness campaign by the government should be started focusing on children, women and people of all different ages.
While expressing her views on “Creating National Cybersecurity Culture in Pakistan,” Ms Aamna Rafiq, Research Associate ACDC-ISSI, said that managing cyber defences only through approaches of traditional warfare is no longer effective. Keeping in view the porous digital boundaries, e-commerce, increasing number and sophistication of cyber attacks, there is a need to develop awareness and acceptable practices that combine political, social, technical, economic, and managerial aspects of cybersecurity culture from global to the individual level. Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General, ISSI concluded that while cyberspace has tremendous benefits, it can also be used for malicious activities and can harm international security.