An X-ray of cyber safety in Nigeria

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  • By Dada Ahmed
  • The safety of Nigeria’s cyber space or otherwise has remained a subject of discussion in many quarters in the country for quite a while, with many believing that government needs to redouble efforts in making its space much safer to check increased cyber crimes in the land.
  • The rampant activities of the cyber criminals and internet scammers, otherwise referred to as “yahoo yahoo boys” are no more news to inquisitive minds with vested interest in what goes on in the cyber space of the largest nation of the black race in the world.Keen watchers of telecommunication industry in Nigeria are quick in observing that individuals as well as companies are not immune to the spree of cyber-attacks and data breaches as cyber threats leave victims with tale of woes.
  • They also argue that though cyber attacks may have received heavy media coverage, this has not erased the fact that Nigeria has lost billions of naira to the nefarious activities.
  • The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) confirms mix of cases originating from phishing attacks, malicious software embedded at payment interfaces and ransom ware
  • .Experts, however, harp on the imperative of making sure the country’s cyber space is made safe to nip their nefarious activities in the bud.In Nigeria, statistics shows that there are over 114 mission internet users in the country, making the telecommunication industry a strategic sector of its economy, besides being a viable means of communication.     
  •  The importance of cyber space notwithstanding, there is has been growing concern over the level of safety of cyber space in the country, in view of the increasing level of cyber crimes in the country. 
  • Pieces of empirical evidence reveal that several internet assisted crimes, otherwise known as cyber crimes, are committed on daily basis in various forms most by youths. 
  • These crimes include: fraudulent electronic mails, pornography, identity theft, hacking, cyber harassment, spamming, Automated Teller Machine spoofing, piracy and phishing among others.Cyberspace, according to ICT experts, refers to the virtual computer world, and more specifically, it is an electronic medium used to form a global computer network to facilitate online communication.
  • It is also an interactive domain made up of digital networks used in storing, modifying and communicating information, including the internet and the other information systems that support businesses, infrastructure and services of any organised society.
  • The growing specter of cyber crimes in Nigeria has reinforced the belief that, the safety of this strategic channel of communication may not be all safe after all.  But the Federal government says it is not resting on its oars in making the country’s space safe as it has initiated moves aimed at protecting the nation’s cyberspace against attacks. 
  • The Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission,(NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, revealed this at the 48th edition of Consumer Town Hall Meeting organised by the commission in Ile-Ife, Osun State to prevent  cyber threats.
  • Danbatta said liberalisation of the telecoms industry had led to increase in the usage and dependence on internet-based solutions and services, hence the resolve of the commission to initiate a process to establish Internet Industry Code of Practice for internet service providers in the country.
  • He describes the Internet Code as a regulatory intervention to secure the country’s cyberspace against imminent threats from cyber attackers and s address online child protection, privacy and data protection, and objectionable content among others.
  • The commission boss says the commission has also embarked on  regulatory intervention and other initiatives to sanitise the country’s internet space, telecoms consumers,  majority of whom use internet-enabled and other smart devices.
  • Concerned organisations and IC experts are not relenting as they continue to proffer solution to cyber space in the country.  
  • The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) has urged the Federal Government to establish a cyber space monitoring team, charged with the responsibility of ascertaining the country’s digital security level. Mrs Chinenye Ajachukwu, Chairperson, Conference Committee of the annual ISACA conference, said this while reacting to areas government needs to address to ensure the safety of the country’s cyber space value and growth of digital economy. 
  • ISACA is an independent, non-profit, global association that engages in the development, adoption and use of globally accepted information system knowledge and practices with over 140,000 professionals in more than 180 countries. Ajachukwu notes that the countries is losing resources to cyber criminals due to poor gateway services, but believes that with appropriate policies and implementation, the menace can be mitigated or stop the reoccurrence.
  •  “Nigeria should establish a cyber, digital space monitoring team to determine the state of the nation’s digital security. 
  • “Government should increase the visibility of the centralised National Cyber Security Incident Response Team (NCSIRT) that is responsible for handling any attack on critical National Information Technology infrastructure. 
  • “Nigerian government should come up with a regulation that would protect victims from financial losses via the Nigerian Payment gateway and digital frauds due to the failure of the gateway. 
  • “We should, through the appropriate agencies, establish national policies, regulations, standards in the design and deployment of mobile applications for financial transactions in Nigeria that will guarantee safety of users’ funds. 
  • “Establishing a digital economic hub that would be responsible, solely, for the use of ICT to create value for economic growth should be considered for achieving digital economy,” Ajachukwu further advises. 
  • According to her government also needs to provide infrastructure to enhance mechanised agriculture that will improve productivity and encourage youth participation for job creation.
  • According to her, the electoral system should be fully automated to allow transmission of results online, at real time, to a central server and upload to the internet and ensure data of dead persons are removed while disallowing participation of underage persons in voting. 
  • The chairperson also calls for leverage on Information Technology (IT) to create smart cities, reposition the living standard of citizens, and improve life expectancy as well as productivity. 
  • “Across the globe, the future of tax collection is electronic, online and automated, Nigerian government should build the digital economy where IT will be used to unearth new sources of value by enlarging the tax payment net.
  •  “There is need to establish a standard for health records, inter-change, enforce its compliance across the health sector.“Nigerian government should conduct a census of citizens to determine the actual size of the population, using IT infrastructure,“ the experts suggests. 
  • She says the data of citizens collected by different agencies of government can be harmonised to generate income while government should ensure implementation of regulations on protection of privacy.
  • The executive arm of government has also put the imperative of ensuring the safety of Nigeria’s cyber space on the front burner with Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo charging stakeholders in the nation’s cyber space to collectively share cyber security best practices.
  • While declaring open Cyber Secure Nigeria 2019 conference with the theme ‘Implementing Cyber Security and Data privacy practices in Nigeria,’the nations’ number two citizen calls for speedy implementation of requisite policies to curtail cyber crime in the country. According to him, no body, organisation or entity is immune to cyber-crime victimisation due to sophistication and severity of cybercrime particularly in 2018.
  • “There is the need for all to jointly end the menace to ensure a secured Nigeria, otherwise every internet user would be a victim, “ he says. 
  • Osinbajo notes that cyber security has become so essential as individual and national development increasingly rely on Information Communication Technology (ICT), hence the need for stringent regulations to be enacted and implemented to ensure criminals don’t succeed in taking advantage on hapless internet users. “The collection and processing of personal data raise significant privacy and data protection concerns for every citizen; the legal remedy to this problem is data protection to ensure privacy,” Osinbajo posits. 
  • He pointed out that the conference was apt and a welcomed development in line with the key policy thrust of the federal government through the Ministry of Communications Osinbajo urged the participants to galvanised ideas in combating cyber threat curtail cyber-crime and ensure data privacy practices in Nigeria, as well as to produce useful outcome for submission to the federal government.
  • He promised that the federal government would articulate various submissions emanating from the conference and put them to use. The President, Cyber Security Experts’ Association of Nigeria, Mr Remi Afon, calls on the Federal Government to establish a national cyber security centre saddled with the responsibility of coordinating and implementing cyber regulations. 
  • He expresses worry that cyber security threats landscape have evolved rapidly and increase in number and sophistication, needing quick checked to attain a regime of secured cyber space in Nigeria through concerted efforts from all critical stakeholders.
  • The Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Mrs Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, stresses the need for awareness programmes where consumers will be informed on the dangers of cybercrimes and ensure internet users learn and observe skills to protect their internet. 
  • The internet touches almost all aspects of human lives. “There is, therefore, need for the consumers to show interests in getting constant enlightenment and be conscious of fraudulent tendencies by some internet users while online.  
  • “The need to constantly educate is further underscored by the large numbers of Nigerians online, with even more to come online. “The commission is intensifying efforts toward implementing its various initiatives aimed at deepening connectivity across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
  •  “As access to internet increases, the dimension of cyber-criminal activities is also becoming more sophisticated,’’ she explains. 
  • Onwuegbuchulam urges consumers to take the skills learnt through consumer engagement programmes very seriously and apply them to be safe on the cyber space. 
  • In all, while Nigeria can aptly be described as a nation with vibrant cyber space, experts say that the fact that its space is characterised by inundated criminal tendencies give them concern.
  • The lasting solution, experts believe lies in government strengthening its resolve to ensure the security of its cyber space, to reduce cyber crime to the barest minimum.  ·          

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