The websites of the government institutions and ministries make use of inexpensive data hosting services provided by private service providers which are prone to cyber threats, revealed National Telecommunications Corporation (NTC).
Some government institutions prefer cheap private service providers for data hosting compared to the NTC which makes these websites easily hackable, revealed Managing Director NTC Brigadier Viqar Rashid Khan (retd) while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication.
The committee met with Rubina Khalid in the chair on Thursday where a briefing was given on the NTC functioning, achievements and future roadmap.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has allowed private companies to provide internet services to government institutions, which is one of the biggest cyber threats to the country. Since the Pulwama incident, 50 million attacks were reported on the NTC data system, but due to five-layer foolproof arrangements, the data remained safe.
The managing director informed the committee that procuring internet services by government institutions from private service providers is one of the biggest cyber threats. Replying to a question, the NTC official said that the NTC is charging more than private companies for data hosting, but it (NTC) is providing foolproof security which private companies lack.
The mandate of NTC is to provide telecom services to the government departments including defense forces whereas PTCL provides telecom services in the private sector as per the act.
The NTC managing director also raised questions over the submarine cables under the control of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL). He said that a submarine cable is the asset of Pakistan which is being held by the PTCL, a private company as it was taken over by Dubai-based Etisalat after privatization. Khan said that submarine cables should have been handed over to the NTC at the time of PTCL privatization.
He further said that the NTC has plans to lay marine cable along China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) on the coastal highway.
The NTC officials informed that with a cost of Rs. 450 million, a data center was established in 2016, which has five-layer security arrangements. During the last three years, the data center generated Rs 419 million revenue. He further said that a third-party security audit of the data center was conducted.
The Kamyab Jawan Program portal is being hosted by the NTC as well, which was visited by 10.6 million people during the last one week and 0.3 million people applied for the scheme. Around 18 million cyber attacks were made on the portal mostly from India but the data remained safe.
The committee was further informed that Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) for existing data center would be established by December 31, 2019. The committee expressed satisfaction over the NTC security arrangements to avoid cyber attacks, but also stressed the need for more steps to ensure foolproof security of data as the next war would be a cyber war.
The committee was informed that the NTC and VMware International have signed a VMware cloud provider program (VCPP). This agreement is the first of its nature in Pakistan with public sector organization by the world’s largest network of validated cloud services based on VMware technology. It enables the NTC to deploy on-premises cloud setup in NTC National Data Center and subsequently to become a secured G-cloud (Government Cloud) provider thus ensuring the security of data and generating huge revenue.
The NTC officials informed the committee that its revenue was Rs. 3.9 billion and expenditure remained Rs. 3.827 billion during 2018-19.