In a recent Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication, the members discussed important matters like the implementation of DIRBS, reduction in taxes on mobile phones and recent data theft incidents.
The data of 47,017 international travelers was misused for the registration of mobile phones through Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS). This was revealed by Director Cyber Wing of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Afzal Mehmood Butt, while briefing the committee. The committee met with Rubina Khalid in the chair on Wednesday.
The committee was further informed that 15 complaints were received regarding illegal registration of mobile devices and 10 persons including three FIA officials were arrested.
During the investigation, it was revealed that some computer operators charged Rs 80 for leaking passengers’ data and the persons behind the scene and man culprit took benefits of up to Rs 25,000 per person’s data.
The committee observed that bringing mobile phones has become a cumbersome task for international travelers. DIRBS was introduced for security reasons and to overcome the menace of smuggling, but the issues still continue, said Rubina Khalid.
Rehman Malik said that 80 percent of mobile phones in the market are with replicated IMEIs, which is a matter of great concern.
An FBR official revealed that government has withdrawn the facility of one duty-free mobile import for international travelers from July 1, under the Finance Bill 2019-20 and one has to pay taxes even if they bring a single mobile phone.
Chairman PTA Maj. Gen. (Retd) Amir Azeem Bajwa informed the committee that the Authority can trace and identify the person who leaks data and the location with 100 percent accuracy. He further said that PTA has reported over 45,000 cases of data theft to FIA so far for further action. Bajwa claimed that the trend of data theft has witnessed a reduction.
He added that the legal commercial import of mobile phones increased substantially after the implementation of DIRBS, as 45 million mobile phones were imported during the last six months which is almost double compared to the same period last year.
Chairman PTA said that government has reduced taxes on mobile phone imports and is still considering further reduction in it. PTA supports a reduction in taxes on mobile import to make the devices more affordable and remove attraction towards illegal mobile imports.
Bajwa said that cellular mobile companies are interested in giving handsets to customers with SIMs (where no other SIMs/services of other companies could be used) on easy payment schedules, but they fear challenges in recovery and that is why they are hesitant. The committee appreciated the idea, while observing that it would be helpful in reducing mobile phone smuggling and is already applicable in other countries.
He further said that PTA has adopted a two-step authentication process which will help in overcoming mobile registration through illegal ways.
FBR officials said that the government has collected Rs 150 million on 75,000 mobile phones so far under the DIRBS implementation. The committee was further informed that the government has prepared different slabs for tax collection on mobile handsets and the highest amount is Rs 31,000 on mobile handsets of value or above $500.
The committee members expressed serious concerns over the sale of Afghani SIMs in Khyber Pakhtunhwa and Balochistan where people receive calls from kidnappers for ransom. Some video and audio clips were also played before the committee where kidnappers were asking for ransom. PTA chairman said that the matter is related to police and the authority can help in tracing the caller, location etc if asked for.
The committee also expressed serious concerns over cyber crimes against children and directed FIA for a detailed briefing on the matter.