Pakistan to pass new cybersecurity policy by December after Egyptian app's data breached

A woman walks past a vehicle with a logo of the Egyptian transport technology start-up Swvl, parked along a road in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 11, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Updated 07 August 2020

Pakistan to pass new cybersecurity policy by December after Egyptian app's data breached

  • Bus-sharing app says data of more than 50 percent users breached in July
  • IT minister says working on legislation ‘for last many months’ to minimize future lapses

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Minister for Information Technology has said a national cybersecurity and personal data protection policy will be implemented by December this year once it is passed by parliament, after popular bus-sharing service Swvl said it had suffered a major security breach that comprised user data of over half its customers.
In April this year, Dubai based information security company Rewterz claimed the private data of 115 million Pakistani mobile users was up for sale on the dark web.
In the latest breach, Egyptian bus-sharing app Swvl has said the data of more than 50 percent of the company’s user base had been breached, according to Shahzeb Memon, Pakistan general manager for the service, who told Arab News Swvl became aware of the unauthorized access in the first week of July.
In light of such incidents, a bill “related to personal data protection will pass from the parliament very soon,” minister for IT Syed Amin ul Haque said, adding: “I am very hopeful that we will complete all procedures by December this year.”
“The ministry of IT is working on cybersecurity and data protection for the last many months,” he said. “We have drafted a bill for legislation which remained on our website for public viewing. We got feedback from the public and other stockholders from inside the country as well as abroad, including the United States.”
Haque said his ministry was in touch with several companies which had access to public data to ensure incidents like the Swvl breach not not happen in the future.
“We have established a committee in this regard which has people from the IT ministry and law enforcement agencies,” Haque said. “We will try that no such data breach should occur in the future.”
Swvl was founded in April 2017 and operates buses along fixed routes, allowing customers to reserve and pay for rides using an app. It has operations in many countries, including Egypt, Kenya and Pakistan, where it launched last year.
“The investigation into the breach is still underway, but at this stage, it is clear that the data which was compromised is restricted to names, email addresses, and phone numbers,” Swvl’s Memon said. “Rest assured that our investigation ensures that passwords and credit card information were not affected or exposed.”
“The vulnerabilities have been addressed,” he added, “and we are working tirelessly to make sure this doesn’t happen again, including deploying further additional security measures.”

Urdu comic book 'Little Master' to help Pakistani children fight COVID-19 misinformation

Updated 19 September 2020

Urdu comic book 'Little Master' to help Pakistani children fight COVID-19 misinformation

  • The book tells the story of a young boy from Karachi's Lyari, who is learning about the virus to help others
  • 'Little Master' is illustrated by Umair Najeeb Khan, the creator of Pakistan’s first superhero comic book series 'Paak-Legion'

RAWALPINDI: "Little Master," an Urdu-language comic book, is going to be released on Monday to guide Pakistani children how to stay safe amid the coronavirus pandemic and cope with COVID-19 misinformation.
Published by Mehrdar Art & Production (MAP), the book tells the story of Ahmed, a young boy from Karachi's Lyari area, who is trying to learn about the coronavirus to help keep others safe, regardless of their community background.
"Comics are a great way to tell a story positively and are really useful in countering misinformation,” Muhammad Faheem, documentary filmmaker and MAP founder, told Arab News on Saturday.

The cover of "Little Master," an Urdu-language comic book to help Pakistani children cope with COVID-19 misinformation. (Photo courtesy of Muhammad Faheem via AN)

The efforts have been funded by MAP itself and through government and private support. To illustrate "Little Master," Faheem asked for help Umair Najeeb Khan, the creator of Pakistan’s first superhero comic book series "Paak-Legion."
Thousands of copies of "Little Master" will be distributed at schools in underprivileged areas such as Lyari, where misinformation has led to blame games and community tensions that affected virus response. Some narratives even questioned the very existence of the virus and necessity to follow any precautions against it.

Umair Najeeb Khan is working on an illustration for the "Little Master" comic book in Islamabad on Sept. 19, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Umair Najeeb Khan via AN)

In May, Faheem rolled out "Hum Sab Saath, Corona ki Kilaaf" ("All of Us Together Against the Coronavirus"), a campaign through posters, social media and talks by community leaders to address the situation.
"It got to the point where relief efforts in these areas were being compromised because people were questioning who deserved help," Faheem said. "We needed to address not only the severity of what was going on but educate the citizens of these areas on what was real information to help combat the fake news and rising bigotry."
The comic book is a follow up to these efforts.
"When kids read our comics, we hope they will learn more about the pandemic and how it is a collective effort that we all have to join together, regardless of our backgrounds."