By Rafia Shafique
Social media and cyber domains are important components of hybrid warfare in the 21st century. Pakistan is a victim of offensive actions carried out by a potential aggressor against its national security, just like many other developed and developing nations. In spite of having more than 80 million active users who are directly connected to the internet, Pakistan didn’t have its Cyber Security Policy until 2021.
However, the idea of “cube security” is becoming more crucial as a result of the rise in automation brought on by information technology. Three key tenets—privacy, data quality, and availability—form the foundation of Cube security. With regard to cube security, Pakistan’s recently released 2021 Cyber Security Policy demonstrates that the country’s decision-makers and experts are well aware of its significance and various dimensions in the cyber domain. The 2021 policy highlights all major aspects of Cube security. This policy also provides an implementation framework to achieve the desired results.
However, the issue and main obstacle stem from the lack of resources needed to implement this policy framework and achieve the desired results. The weak institutional framework further aggravates the situation, along with a fragile economy.
Whereas strong economies and institutions play a very important role in the prosperity of any nation, if the country doesn’t have the available resources to implement the already devised policies, then policy formulation only goes to waste. Similar circumstances exist in Pakistan, where the implementation of the Cyber Security Policy 2021 is already behind schedule but is further hampered by a lack of resources and unstable economic conditions.
The 2021 Cyber Security Policy clearly demonstrates the failures up-till now because of the rapid increase in cyber-attacks that have taken place in recent times. The prime minister’s office is regarded as the most accountable body of the state, and it is where the current and former prime ministers of Pakistan had their private conversations. If the security of that office is compromised to the point where confidential and secret data related to governing issues and problems can be easily bugged and leaked on social media to cause chaos among the general public, then the state faces serious security challenges.
There are a number of reasons why Pakistan has a hesitant approach to cyber security. One of the main reasons is a lack of awareness and understanding of the threat. Many Pakistanis are not taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves because they are not aware of the risks posed by cyber warfare and social media manipulation. Similar to this, Pakistan’s enemies use the weaknesses and openings in its social media infrastructure as a tool of exploitation to gain a political advantage. Some recommendations Pakistan should take into account, keeping in mind the current threat and challenges, are the following:
Pakistan must act quickly to combat a new foe. It realized its position when the storm was already near enough to cause destruction. There is no doubt about the fact that it also takes many initiatives to contain the situation. However, in order to compete with its adversaries’ cyber capabilities and strength, it is crucial to invest quickly in the cyber army. After all, it must contend with nations that have been active in this field for a long time.
Pakistan has been slow to react in recent years to the escalating threat of cyber warfare and social media manipulation. This has made the nation susceptible to numerous cyber-attacks, such as hacking, phishing, and defamation campaigns. Therefore, more funding ought to be given to both the military and the government. As the cyber domain is now evolving into a new battlefront between India and Pakistan and will gain momentum in the following era, Pakistan’s strategy and spending in this area need to change. Therefore, it is crucial that the government make significant investments in cyber security resources to handle the new dynamics.
Pakistan should develop an effective social media army to counter misinformation and propaganda. The development of some delaying strategies is necessary in order to gain some control over the social media environment within its sphere of influence while operating under the restrictions of constrained finances and resources. The government can maintain strict control over the situation by using neutralizing strategies, such as counter-narrative campaigns supported by substantial background evidence. Promoting self-empowerment and indigenization in relation to computer infrastructure and technologies as well as one’s own social media platforms can also be a bright spot in a gloomy situation.
The author is pursuing her M.Phil. degree in Strategic & Nuclear Studies from National Defense University, Islamabad. She can be reached at email@example.com