Election Act 2017 exposes citizens’ database to hackers, criminals

ISLAMABAD: One extremely risky aspect of the forthcoming general elections is that over 18-year-old citizens’ personal data, including the photos of both men and women, will be exposed for possible misuse.
Informed official warned that in the Election Act, 2017 a major blunder has been committed under which the whole country’s database of voters’ list severely becomes vulnerable.
The sources quote Section 79(3) of the Election Act, 2017 as seriously problematic. The Section 79 deals with the supply of final electoral rolls and provides for: “(1) The Commission shall provide the Returning Officer for each constituency with copies of final electoral rolls for all the electoral areas within that constituency. (2) The Returning Officer shall provide the Presiding Officer of each polling station with copies of the final electoral rolls containing the names of the voters entitled to vote at that polling station. (3) On the application of a candidate or his election agent, the District Election Commissioner or any officer authorised in this behalf by the Commission shall provide to a candidate or an election agent a hard and searchable soft copy on universal serial bus (USB) in portable document format (PDF) or any other tamper-proof format of the final electoral roll with photographs of the voters and shall ensure that the copy is the same as provided to the Returning Officer and Presiding Officers.” There is total of 104 million voters’ data density in the electoral rolls database for participating in GE-2018.
According to a cyber security expert, this availability of 104 million voters’ database, which is actually derived from the citizens’ database of NADRA, to a common man is recipe of disaster in terms of privacy of every Pakistani citizen’s identity with photographs and resulting his/her security. The soft copy of the voters’ data can quickly be copied and transmitted in a single click of button, resultantly causing colossal damage to the country’s national asset i.e. civil registry and voters’ database.
It is said that the political parties will get these databases in electronic or digital format and launch this confidential information on their own websites or servers. “This will be like a hot cake for the hackers to potentially attack on it,” a source warned.
The Section 79(3) of the Election Act, 2017, it is said, should have been revoked in order to avoid making public citizens’ database. These sources said that the track record already showed persistently that hackers attacked databases of the US voters during election 2016 in USA. Later, they successfully attempted on French and German elections.
It is argued that their primary targets were the voters’ databases of national and regional political parties. They also target social media users’ accounts including Facebook, Twitter, etc. The experts say that already there are some unusual traffic and attempts have been made by international hackers to compromise online services of Pakistan.
It has been recently revealed that the online taxi service Careem database was also hacked resulting in the theft of 14 million citizens’ record, including their captains’ credentials. The worst thing is this that the data of dozens of credit cards were also stolen by the hackers.
The official say as we go closer to elections or poll day, the chances of hacking will exponentially increase and thus it is the need of the time that all top IT experts should sit together and make proper national level strategy to safeguard these expected attacks by the hackers.