The protests by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) last week overshadowed another scandal wreaking havoc on the Pakistani economy. A hacking attempt was made by a foreign source affecting the banking system of Pakistan and resulting in a loss of personal information of several account holders and that information was then sold to hackers on the dark net. According to a statement by the statement by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), almost all banks were affected in this breach and efforts were being made to make the transaction system safe in cooperation with the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). The first bank to go public with the information of the breach was BankIslami on October 27 and they reported a loss of Rs2.6 million.

This cyber attack shows how vulnerable the security checkpoints of our banking systems are and how easily they are susceptible to attacks. The immediate action taken by all the banks is to stop all foreign transactions via debit and credit cards until the system is restored and there is no chance of another attack. The banking system, at this point, needs to upgrade its understanding of the digital space and introduce check points accordingly. An attack on the banking sector means that the customers lose their trust on the network and have to find alternative sources for cash deposits.

The affected bank has had to return the money of the customers after the attack to retain its client base. While this is a reliable solution in attacks on a minor scale, this cannot be relied upon in the future. The SCB along with the FIA and the relevant banks should create a network of scrutiny that strengthens the safety provided to the deposits of the customers. Any person affected should not only contact the bank but also the FIA because the FIA can ensure the return of the deposit instead of the affectees going home empty handed and disappointed by the banking system of the country.

The matter has also been taken up the National Assembly (NA) and both, the government and opposition, are on board with the seriousness of the issue. The Minister of Finance Asad Umar has been advised to take all members of the parliament into confidence to issue a report on the matter because there are varying narratives circulating around and creating more confusion. A coherent report addressing the issue will not only calm down the masses but also provide a way forward.