Finance Ministry Data Compromised; Hackers Accessed Emails of Officials

December 28, 2021 — On December 27, the Ministry of Finance faced a data breach as the emails of senior officials of the Ministry got hacked, news reports reveal. Hackers were able to access sensitive information regarding the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and other governmental departments.

The data accessed illegally by the hackers can pose a threat to Pakistan’s national security. A video teaser shared by the hacker of compromised emails, the email address, and their subjects has been seen by a digital news platform, ProPakistani that reported the incident. According to its report, the video file contains data about senders, receivers, and subjects of more than 2500 emails that were exchanged between the Finance Ministry and Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, Fitch Ratings, Credit Suisse, and other national and international financial bodies.

Representatives of the Ministry denied the request for comment, however, later said that no official data has been compromised. Regardless, ProPakistani highlights that most government officials continue to use their personal email addresses for official communication, hence there is a possibility that someone’s personal account was hacked leading to official communication being compromised.

This is not the first time that a government body’s online data has been compromised. A few weeks ago, Digital Rights Monitor published a story when the Federal Investigative Authority informed the National Assembly about NADRA’s data breach. The report also mentioned that online breaches are quite frequent in Pakistan and that there is a need for legislation on data protection.

The comment of the FIA led to a series of communications from both FIA and NADRA denying the remarks being attributed to the agency and calling it misrepresentation. However, various breaches of official data on citizens in recent years highlights the need for stringent data protection legislation to protect citizens’ sensitive digital data. A draft data protection bill is in the works since 2018, and according to the reports, is in its final stages of drafting before it is passed into law. 

Mishaal is a Project Coordinator at Media Matters for Democracy. She is a Public Policy graduate with past experience as content strategist and research writer. Her main areas of interest are political science, world history, and public policy.

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