And some prominent cases
innovation brings with it great advantages but also some disadvantages.
With countries becoming more and more connected and the emergence of a
new cyber world, many important transactions, both business and private, are
now carried out online. As a result, the rate of cyber crimes has also risen
rapidly over the years.
This global phenomenon now
applies to Pakistan too. According to an estimate, there are more than 20
million Internet users in Pakistan. Since Karachi is the country’s largest
and most advanced metropolis, its share of people online is huge, going into
the millions. This vast network creates strong threats and vulnerabilities
and encourages cyber-crimes. In our country, where cyber crimes laws are
unclear it requires awareness at all levels to combat the menace.
In 2011, there were 200
cases of cyber-crimes reported, including the hacking of websites, tracing of
emails and frauds through the Internet and mobile phones. This included 68
incidents reported of women being harassed online. Cases were registered
against persons who were allegedly involved in hacking the email accounts of
women, using their personal details and pictures on social networking sites,
sending them abusive, obnoxious and obscene emails.
The most common complaints
received from women by the National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C)
involved the hacking of their emails and creating fake profiles of them.
Mostly young people are involved in these sorts of cyber-crimes and cyber
bullying. Experts believe that many young men are driven to such crimes out
of frustration, without realising the traumatic consequences what the victim
and her family will face socially and personally.
Earlier this year, the FIA
cyber-crime circle in Karachi successfully kicked off a successful operation
to unearth some unscrupulous elements that were involved in creating fake
Facebook accounts and placing photos of women online to blackmail them.
In most cases, the girls
who become the victim leave themselves at the mercy of the criminals as they
fear telling their parents about it. Due to the lack of cyber-crime
legislation, such harassment, cyber-bullying and online stalking has grown
over the years. Without being unaware of the dangers, many girls and young
women upload their pictures on social websites without proper privacy
settings, and only realise their mistake later when they fall victim to
In our society, the honour
of the family has traditionally been intricately tied around women; if a
woman is attacked, the entire family’s honour is attacked. The easiest way
to harass women in this kind of traditional culture is to threaten them and
‘dishonour’ them by spreading their pictures online
Despite the massive rise in
the number of people going online in Pakistan, Internet users are still
unaware of fighting back through legal means when they find themselves under
Keeping in mind such
concerns, a department was created to solve the problems regarding computer
and technological crimes. The Federal Investigation Agency NR3C, which is
equipped with technical investigators, legal advisors, computer forensic
experts and computer forensic labs, is here to help the citizens with their
issues regarding cyber-crime.
NR3C is working under the
Electronic Transaction Ordinance (ETO) 2002, a first of its kind IT-relevant
legislation designed by policy-makers. Originally it was meant for the
violation of privacy of information and damage to information systems but now
it is used for all kinds of crimes related to cyber space.
An official at the FIA
cyber-crime cell, on the condition of anonymity, however points out some of
the inadequacies of the law: “The
ETO law we have is not sufficient to deal with cyber crimes”. The success
rate, he believes, was better with Prevention of Electronic Crime Ordinance
(PECO) which was introduced in 2007 ‘as it empowered us’. The ordinance
dealt with almost every type of cyber activity for e.g. electronic crimes,
including cyber terrorism, data damage, electronic fraud, and electronic
forgery, unauthorised access to code, cyber stalking and cyber spamming
While talking about the
nature of cases that are registered at the cell, he said that hacking email
address, hacking and illegal access of websites, misuse of information on the
Internet, threatening and abusive messages and emails, bank credit card
frauds, fraud through mobile messages regarding the winning of prize money or
vehicle, mobile phone threatening through SMS and calls as well as stealing
social accounts and then using them for blackmailing purpose are mostly
The cyber criminals are
mainly involved in committing frauds, stealing identities, violating privacy
and blackmailing people and till now more than 50 cases have been registered
at the Cyber Crime Cell Karachi and the investigation in every case has
almost reached maturity, the official asserted.
When asked how in a city of
millions of users, there are only a handful of
complaints lodged, the official said the unwillingness of cyber-crime
victims to report their cases is one of the major hurdles in the way of
investigations and action against hackers and criminals. Secondly, the
complains lodge against blackmailing and harassing are mainly from women and
due to societal taboos most women fear registering cases and most crimes go
Most of the cyber crime
victims do not report incidents of Internet crime to investigators due to
several reasons including fear of loss of face. Three female university
students who recently became victims of cyber-crime only reported the
incident to their families, leaving the criminals free to harass them.
Faiza*, Shagufta* and
Ayesha* went to a restaurant for lunch with friends and took some pictures.
After coming back home, when Faiza and Shagufta asked for the pictures Ayesha
emailed them to her friends but unfortunately the same day Faiza’s email
was hacked. She made a new account as she thought there was nothing serious
about the hacking. But the hacker had other ideas in mind.
a few months, Ayesha and Shagufta got a message from the same hacked email of
Faiza asking them for favours and blackmailing them, with a warning that if
they did not meet his demands, their pictures will be uploaded on social
websites. Since there was nothing obscene in them and after they discussed
the matter with their families, they were asked not to reply and let the
hacker do what he wanted.
Shehzad Ahmed, Country
Coordinator Bytes for All, an NGO working to safeguard digital security,
online safety and privacy, said: “Currently, we have no cyber law to curb
cyber-criminal activities. Since women are mostly the target of cyber bullies
and cyber criminals, their personal and social lives are at risk, as their
accounts are hacked and then their pictures are uploaded on their Internet
which creates problems for them”.
He said, “A law should be
made to ensure individual privacy and protection, especially for women.
Secondly, awareness should be spread on a massive scale so that every user
should know their rights if any mishap happens to them”.
“People involved in
immoral activities like blackmailing and harassing women on the Internet are
sometimes deeply frustrated and driven to commit these crimes”. Dr. Saleem
Ahmed, a consultant psychiatrist, said, “Awareness is the only way to
educate these sorts of people. Surely, they too must have mothers, sisters
and daughters and education and counselling might temper their
* Names have been changed
to maintain privacy
His cyber name was
‘penetrator’ and he lived up to it. In July 2010, he hacked President
Asif Ali Zardari’s website, pasted the president’s head on the body of a
dancing girl, and inserted dirty jokes on the web page.
Given the nature of this
crime, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was soon on its toes. The
matter gained greater urgency because the incident occurred during a cyber
war between Indian and Pakistani hackers. Two days later, the hacker was
arrested. He maintained his act was ‘innocent’, and he did it just ‘for
fun’. The hacker was found at a mobile phone shop in the Pindigheb area in
northern Punjab, and it was reported that he was traced through his PTCL
broadband connection and email id.
In 2009, there was a case
where Rehman Malik’s website was hacked. The hackers left a message, “we
don’t need such ministers”, with their names underneath. They also left a
message saying “Pakistan Zindabad”. The move came after the former
interior minister had launched a website, Facebook page, a Youtube channel,
My Space and Friendster accounts, along with a fortnightly presence to chat
with the public.
On September 27, 2011, the
Supreme Court website was hacked. The hacker left an ideological message to
the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. “I am here to request you to go out
and help the poor, needy and hungry. They don’t have money to eat one-time
meal, they don’t have clothes to wear, and they don’t have accommodation
… sitting in your royal chair won’t make any changes to our Pakistan,”
the message read. They also demanded the Supreme Court to take a suo moto
notice against the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and ban pornographic
In 2010, two young boys
from Kohat had hacked the Supreme Court website and left derogatory remarks
against the judiciary and chief justice. They were caught but let go because
they were under 18 years of age.
politician’s website are involved are quiet common. There are others where
fake profiles and ids are used. An impostor poses as someone and uses the
account to defame an individual,” explained an official at the FIA.
With the advent of social
media, family feuds often take to the virtual world. In one such incident, a
famous industrialist Fazal Dadabhoy, launched a complaint with the FIA over a
Facebook user who used a picture from a lady in his family to defame her.
After a detailed investigation and technical assistance, the culprit was
traced to a location in the Defence Housing Authority. It turned out he was a
habitual cyber criminal who at that time was using at least three Facebook
ids to defame women of well reputed families. A raid was conducted but the
culprit had disappeared along with his family leaving behind a laptop and a
Yet another incident
involved an employee of the Karachi Water and Sewage Board who was
blackmailing its managing director by sending him threatening emails. The
culprit was a chief engineer at the KWSB and he was released on a bail of Rs
20,000 by the sessions court.
In one of the cases, a
school in Islamabad was targeted, where the criminal targeted Facebook ids of
female students. He would make fake profiles, mention their personal mobile
numbers and tag them as ‘call girls’. The culprit was traced to a travel
agency, after the FIA obtained Basic Subscriber Information (BSI) from
Facebook, and then traced the Internet Protocol (IP address).