On social media, a number of audio snippets purporting to be discussions between Maryam Nawaz, Shehbaz Sharif, and government officials have surfaced. Additionally, the conversation which involves senior political leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party allegedly took place in the PM house.
What Do the Leaked Audios Entail?
According to reports, an international hacker had access to roughly 100 hours of allegedly taped discussions from the PM Office.
A conversation between Sharif and an unnamed official supposedly took place in one of the stolen audio files. The snippet became popular on social media. It discussed the potential for Maryam Nawaz’s son-in-law to expedite the import of machinery from India for power projects.
A second audio tape is purported to show a conversation between the Prime Minister, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and Defense Minister Khawaja Asif.
Azam Nazeer Tarar, minister of law, and Ayaz Sadiq spoke on the National Assembly resignations of PTI legislators. Another claimed audio clip features a talk between the prime minister and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz. The audio was regarding the supposed unfavourable policies of former finance minister Miftah Ismail.
With respect to the clip above, listeners can hear Maryam Nawaz criticizing the former finance minister. She points out Ismail’s irresponsible behaviour and weird antics that subject him to public ridicule. Moreover, another voice, identified as the PM, agrees with her. He also mentions Ismail’s notorious habit of cutting corners.
One of the talks between Maryam and Shehbaz concerned Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi. He claims in a video that the leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) had verbally attacked him.
Moreover, the public should take into consideration that neither the Prime Minister nor the Information Minister, Maryam Aurangzeb contradicts or denies the phone conversation. Due to this, other relevant stakeholders raise red flags.
However, Aurangzeb downplayed the situation by claiming that the audio leaks were “evidence that nothing illegal transpired” and that no one had an undue benefit.
How Did the Audios Get Leaked?
A hacker going by the handle “indishell” posted the audio clips for sale online. This known group of Indian hackers has been attacking Pakistani websites since 2007. The first and third audio clips are about two minutes apiece. The second audio clip, which is separated into six segments for simple social media sharing, lasts 12 minutes and 40 seconds.
Additionally, sources claim that the leaked 115-hour-long audio clips have been doing rounds on the dark web. Currently, they are up for auction for $3.5 million.
On September 3, a user going by the handle @ze_lucy uploaded audio samples to Twitter, but no one took note. On September 3, the 8GB audio had a minimum price of 180 bitcoins, or $20,000.
Exclusive: Hacker was demanding $3.5 million in order to leak the audio files but his latest tweet shows he’s going to release audio files on Friday 9/30/2022.
Is This a Case of Cyber Security Concern?
Cybersecurity specialists raise their concerns by claiming that government organizations do not have the appropriate resources to handle cyberattacks.
However, the possibility that someone might have recorded the conversations on their phone is slight. This is due to the lengthy duration of the audio, which points evidence towards gadgets that may have been bugged for a long time.
One of the audios whose sample was leaked seems to be extremely clear. Sources claim that every minister present at the discussions had their mobile microphones compromised.
Even Shireen Mazari, former human rights minister of the PTI government had speculated regarding the intellectual compromise. According to her, the hacking was possible due to several devices hidden in the PM house.
However, it is too soon, according to experts, to determine if the security compromise was due to an internal attack or an external hack.
In an age where spyware and various other malicious software are prevalent, security should take further measures to prevent cyber-attacks. The leaking of the audio files could be the work of notorious, yet efficient spyware such as Pegasus.
Pegasus is an Israeli cyber arms company whose software users can download on any Android or Apple smartphone. It houses an array of techniques that can exploit the subject’s system. The more modern versions of Pegasus employ zero-click attacks, which do not require interaction with the system.
In some cases, most countries employ such applications to spy on other countries for political rivalry purposes. Through this, they may be able to gather confidential intel that they could use for strategic or blackmailing purposes.
The intelligence organizations, particularly the Intelligence Bureau, failed in protecting the country’s intellectual integrity. Apart from politics, everyone now has the power to influence major talks on security and international concerns.
Therefore, the Government of Pakistan must cooperate with professionals in the security industry. They can help incorporate cyber resilience at every phase of strategic planning.
They can do this by adopting worldwide best practices of national cybersecurity and establishing a national cybersecurity centre.