No ‘Mass Hacking’: Pak Central Bank Denies Reports of Data Breach

Pakistan’s central bank on Tuesday, 6 October, scrambled to reassure its investors and consumers that its banking system had not been hacked after reports of a massive data breach circulated, Reuters reported. The State Bank of Pakistan termed the inaccurate reports as “mass skimming.”

A monitoring group named Pakistan Computer Emergency Response Team (PakCERT), said that details of nearly 20,000 debit and credit cards from 22 Pakistani banks had been hacked.

The State Bank of Pakistan, while instructing all the banks to “increase their scrutiny”, reiterated that it wasn’t a “mass hacking”.

"It has been noted with concern news items reporting that the data of most banks has been hacked. SBP categorically rejects such reports," Reuters said quoting a statement from the central bank.

Before the Central Bank’s disclaimer, Director of cyber crime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Capt Mohammad Shoaib had said: "According to a recent report we have received, data from almost all Pakistani banks has been reportedly hacked".

He said the FIA has written to all banks, and a meeting of the banks' heads and security managements was being called.

"Banks are the custodians of the money people have stored in them," Shoaib said, adding they are also responsible if their security features are weak that they result in pilferage.

The disclosure comes days after around 10 banks blocked all international transactions on their cards, following concerns raised about a breach of credit and debit card data, Geo News reported.

Last week, the official said, a gang was arrested, whose members used to disguise themselves as army officials and withdraw money from banks after collecting people's data.

On Tuesday, The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had been informed by several commercial banks that they have blocked international payments on debit and credit cards as a precautionary measure following cyber attacks on the accounts of their clients, the Dawn reported quoting sources.

The first case of a cyber attack on a Pakistan's bank was reported by BankIslami on 27 October. The bank had said that Rs 2.6 million was stolen from international payment cards after which it has stopped such transactions and allowed biometrically verified payments only on ATM cards within Pakistan, according to the report.

The following day, the central bank (SBP) issued directives to all banks to ensure that security measures on all information technology systems, including those related to card operations, are continuously updated to meet future challenges, ensure real-time monitoring of card operations related systems and transactions.

They were asked to immediately coordinate with all the integrated payment schemes, switch operators and media service providers, the report said.

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