In the midst of a brewing cyber war, Pakistan is preparing to start local development of SIMs and smart cards in an attempt to shield the nation from the serious threat of cyber attacks.
Earlier, a mobile production strategy was adopted by the government. In the initial eight digits of the 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI) used to uniquely identify wireless devices, Pakistan faced a security threat due to Indian-manufactured smartphones using the type allocation code of other countries.
In the past, Indian hackers have also attacked Pakistani officials’ accounts but to no benefit. Pakistan successfully countered the attacks with no damage being caused. The government is aiming to start producing SIMs and smart cards after introducing the mobile manufacturing policy. Under the plan, investors would be invited by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom to produce these cards.
In order to move forward with the proposed plan, the IT Ministry is now considering the approval of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC). The Ministry of Information Technology revealed in a summary sent to the economic decision-making body that the digital transformation and the creation of an enabling ecosystem was amongst the Government of Pakistan’s key objectives and that the SIMs and smart cards were of crucial importance in the era of digital services.
Researchers at a security firm called AdaptiveMobile Security published a study (via TNW) in September last year regarding a new vulnerability named as “Simjacker” that uses the SIM card of a phone to spy. Because with Simjacker, all mobile phone manufacturers and models can be used, over one billion handsets can be affected globally.
The ministry said it was considered that for various reasons, local production of these chips and cards needed to be encouraged. A committee for the production of SIMs and smart cards has been formed by the government. A cross-stakeholder committee was set up, on the order of the prime minister, to make recommendations in order to move forward.
Numerous meetings were held with the relevant stakeholders, including the Engineering Development Board (EDB), Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs), law enforcement agencies, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), and the Federal Revenue Board (FBR). A detailed report was submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom.
In addition, a summary was also transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister, which included suggestions for a strategic way forward. Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the ECC to submit these recommendations. The draft summary was then circulated for stakeholder input.
Comments were received from the Ministry of Commerce, Finance, Interior, Industries and Production and the Regulator for Telecommunications in response. The FBR and SBP have also submitted comments in support of the policy. The stakeholders supported, in their comments, the step taken by the Ministry of Information Technology to produce SIMs and smart cards in Pakistan.
IT Ministry Secretary Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui told The Express Tribune that recommendations for the local development of SIMs and smart cards had been prepared by the committee. He said the committee had recommended reducing taxes on the material to be used in Pakistan’s SIM manufacturing operations. He said several investors were prepared to start producing SIMs in Pakistan, adding that it would ensure the security of the country as well as build job opportunities.
He also maintained that this move would contribute to foreign exchange savings. “The local production of SIMs would help the economy, according to industry experts, as millions of SIMs are currently imported. If we are confident that Pakistani producers will ensure quality at fair prices, it is important to speed up the framework for local production and its execution. In addition to promoting the government’s Digital Pakistan vision, this will decrease reliance on foreign companies and also save foreign currency reserves,” said an official.
Reference links: tribune.com.pk