Several audio leaks from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in Pakistan have been making rounds on social media and news channels. These audios contain informal talks of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif with his family members and other government officials. One leak, which has been going viral since Saturday, reveals a discussion between Shariff and PMLN Vice President Maryam Nawaz about procuring power plant machinery from India for her son-in-law Raheel Munir. In another leak, PM and top PMLN officials, including Rana Sanaullah, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, can be heard discussing PTI resignations and permission from London to accept those resignations.
The alarming development has raised concerns about the security of the PMO. It has also been said that the government officials might have been bugged. The ruling party has not denied the authenticity of the leaks but said that inquiry would take place when Sharif returns to Pakistan. The opposition has criticized the government for not making their own decisions and also the lack of cybersecurity in the biggest office of Pakistan. They also criticized the security agencies and expressed shock over the sensitive leaks.
Leaked Audios for Sale on Dark Web
The said leaked audios of the Pakistan Prime Minister have been up for sale on the dark web since August. A popular Indian hacking group known as Indishell released these confidential recordings on the blackhat website. There are many other damning conversations than the leaked ones. There are audios of strategic planning like an increase in petrol prices and former dictator General Pervaiz Musharaff’s return. The group also replied to people in the comments section that they also possessed audios of highly influential people and the army chief as well.
The hackers have claimed that there are more than 100 files of these recordings, making up to 8GB. They set the minimum bid to 180BTC (3.4 million USD) and claimed only to reveal this information to the highest bidder.
Who are Indishell?
According to reports, Indishell is a legendary hacker group responsible for many such incidents in Pakistan. It has hacked thousands of Pakistani websites, including the government, police, banks, agencies, and even courts. Pakistan Cyber Army (PCA) and Pakbugs were formed in Pakistan as a response to the hacks by Indishell.
In 2007, when cyber warfare between India and Pakistan was at its peak, Indishell hacked the website of OGRA (Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority). In return, PCA hacked ONGC (India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation). Moreover, Indishell hacked many other government websites, including the embassy in Serbia. So, the PakBugs attacked the websites of the CBI (Crime Bureau of Investigation) and other Indian websites. However, the groups only carried out these hacks to deface the opponents and exhibit thier vainglorious attitude. This new hack involving the leaked audios from the PMO is new and far more dangerous than games of the past.
Leaking Scandals in Pakistan
Almost every government in Pakistan has faced such scandals of audio and video leaks. However, none has ever conducted a proper and full-scale investigation. Just like some films and TV shows, the ending is left for the audience to assume. Similarly, the cybersecurity of government systems has also been compromised many times in the past. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan also faced this challenge when trying to launch government apps as part of a “digital revolution” in Pakistan. Indian hackers were involved in that incident too. Plenty of user data was on those apps, but the government could not find out if the data was compromised and also said nothing about tracing the hack to its origin. Governments can introduce many different ways to convince Pakistan that it’s moving towards efficient digitalization, but it seems that cyber-attacks will always be a threat to that future.