ISLAMABAD: Officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) discussed threats to the banking system in the country.
A team of SBP officers led by Deputy Governor Jamil Ahmed during a visit to the FIA headquarters also discussed with its officials the recently reported cases of banking fraud.
The FIA team provided the SBP officers with the details of around 1,576 complaints about banking fraud lodged this year. The FIA’s officials were led by Director General Bashir Memon during the meeting.
Sources said that the two sides had different points of view over the nature of threats to the country’s banking system.
The FIA’s Director Cybercrime, retired Wing Commander Mohammad Shoaib, also attended the meeting.
In a related development, the BankIslami has officially lodged a complaint at the FIA office in Karachi on Thursday regarding siphoning off the amounts from its accounts, according to a senior official of the agency.
The FIA team maintained that accounts of all the banks were vulnerable as the data of almost all banks operating in the country was vulnerable to attacks by international cyber criminals. The matter should be probed at a fast pace, it insisted.
But the SBP officers called for adopting a cautious approach to avoid creating panic among account holders.
As the SBP has acknowledged that there are threats to the banking system mainly because the digital banking has increased its outreach manifold, an FIA team led by the director of Cyber Crime Wing is scheduled to visit Karachi next week to hold meeting with the executives of the banking sector.
An FIA official told Dawn that the difference of opinion between the SBP and FIA officials was regarding the information of account hacking reaching public, as the banking sector was secretive. “But we say that things cannot be hidden in this digital era so it is better to issue warnings,” he said. “The banks should strengthen their firewalls and safety mechanism.”
The FIA Cyber Crime Wing has warned that security of all Pakistani banks has been compromised as there are complaints from many parts of the country regarding money being transferred through security breach.
The FIA director reiterated that the hackers were probably based outside Pakistan and it was easy to breach the security systems digitally from abroad or any distant location.
He also said that the agency had written letters on the issue to all banks as well as the SBP about a month ago but there was no response.
“It is good that finally the State Bank has responded to the possible threats even if it does not deem it a serious attack,” the FIA official said, insisting that the “threat is serious and the banking sector is trying to cover it up. That is why most of the major banks have suspended their international ATM transactions and some even have suspended their online service for the time being.”
On the other hand, a senior official of the SBP said that there was a difference between fraud, cheating and cyber attack etc. “There are cases of cheatings and there are banking frauds but not necessarily it is through cyber skimming,” said the SBP official, adding, “the banking sector is safe and there have not been a large number of cyber attacks on the banking system in the country.”
However, the official added that the cases had started to come forward due to improved media coverage, social media availability, but all the cases were not related to banking fraud.
“There are routine cases of prank calls telling people about awards they have been offered by a mobile company, but this is not a telecom company fraud,” the official said. “Besides people find it easier to approach the FIA or police than to lodge complaints with the banking ombudsman.”
Anyway, the State Bank has decided to work closely with the FIA to resolve the issue and inquire the existing complaints.