By Grace Yussuf –
U.S. Consul-General in Nigeria John Bray recently observed that loss to cyber crimes will hit six trillion dollars by 2021 in Nigeria.
According to him, the magnitude of the loss indicates the extent of damage that cyber crimes can cause to the world economy, especially in developing nations.
In 2017, a wide-spread ransom-ware attack — WannaCrypt — targeted out-of-date Windows devices in 150 countries in which more than 300 million dollars got lost in the first quarter of the year.
In the same year, cyber crime further affected hospitals, major companies and government offices by a massive wave of cyber attacks across the globe that seize control of computers until the victims pay a ransom.
With these threats of insecurity, analysts note that the increased incidence of malware calls for caution and urgent action by countries, especially developing countries such as Nigeria.
Expressing more concerns, Bray said that there was growing dependence on technology and alarming cyber crime threats had been major concerns for nations all over the world.
He said that the awareness was part of efforts being made to bring a permanent solution to the menace through sensitisation and awareness creation.
“In spite of these efforts, most Nigerians and the wider world are still unaware of the implications of cybercrimes; cyber threat is real. Every year, billions of dollars are lost to cyber crime.
“The embassy’s campaign tagged: Stop, Think, Connect, is the global online safety awareness campaign to help all digital citizens stay safer and more secure online,’’ he said.
He said that cyber awareness was everyone’s responsibility and it involved sharing information and cooperating to mitigate the effect of cyber threat.
Further to this, National Information Technology Development Agency has issued a warning to ministries, departments and agencies, private sector and the public, to be vigilant and proactive ahead of possible cyber attacks.
Dr. Isa Pantami, the Director-General of the agency, said that cyber-attacks could be targeted at the banking, health, power systems and critical national infrastructures.
“The agency’s Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team in conjunction with other industry stakeholders have intercepted some signals of potential cyber attacks.
“These attacks are targeting banking, health and other systems, power and transportation systems as well as other critical national infrastructure.
“In this regard, the need for all to be vigilant and proactive as far as security is concerned cannot be over emphasised,’’ Pantami said.
Beyond this, observers insist that the government should begin to implement the Nigerian Cyber Crime Act 2015 to effectively tackle cyber crime.
“The act stipulates that hackers, if found guilty of unlawfully access to a computer system or network, are liable to a fine of up to N10 million or a term of imprisonment of five years.
“Depending on the purpose of the hacking, the act if well implemented may likely curb the crime,’’ he observed.
But SP Dolapo Badmus, the Police Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Command, said that the leadership of the force would soon establish Anti-Cybercrime Unit, which would handle the issues of cyber crime.
She said the members of the unit would undergo adequate training on how to handle the issues surrounding cyber crime.
In the same vein, an analyst, Prof. Sanjay Misra of the Covenant University, Ota, Ogun, said that having a formidable cyber protection team was important to curtail cyber crime in the country.
Misra, a professor of Computer Engineering, said, “rapid development in Information Communication and Technology, with good collaboration among stakeholders, would be of great impact in addressing the issue’’.
He said prevention, detection, defence and response were cardinal to handling the cyber security challenges.
Misra listed some of the roles of the cyber protection team to include the investigation and fishing out of cyber criminals, and helping to identify vulnerabilities of potential targets, especially financial institutions and government agencies.
The don said that the cyber protection team would also inspect, advise and assist computer users and agencies on ways by which cyber crimes could be minimised.
He said that key players in the team should include individuals, cyber security experts, computer forensic professionals, academics, researchers, regulatory bodies and agencies.
“Government needs to have the will power to fight cyber crime because there are things in place such as the Google map that can be used to trace people and their activities,’’ he said.
He also said that there was need to develop a new analysis and threat intelligence technique which could proactively disrupt future cyber threats.
Apart from these, experts say going to the cyber space to tackle the challenge of cyber crime could also be an effective strategy to tackle cyber crime.
A physical security professional, Mr Dennis Amachree, advised law enforcement agencies to go to the cyber space to tackle cyber crime.
“Although increase in internet connectivity is beneficial to life with its many advantages and opportunities, it presents crimes and security risks.
“The law enforcement agencies need to plug to the space to be able to manage cyber crimes,’’ he said.
He said the new security threats was cyber crime because criminals no longer walking the streets but had moved into the cyber space.
Amachree, nonetheless, agrees that the defence against cyber terrorism has to do with prevention, incident management, consequence management and a new frontier for security professionals.
He, therefore, advocated going to the cyber space to tackle the scourge by both experts in security agencies and private sector operators in the country.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Rolland Avedician, Legal Attaché, U. S. Consulate said that the World Wide Web had allowed criminals to operate across borders.
“The criminals in West Africa are operating in an organised and well sophisticated way due to the fact that they take classes and discuss what the law enforcement agencies are doing to checkmate them.
“They are now looking for the most vulnerable targets and mobile banking is now the target of cyber criminals.
“The criminals in West Africa are becoming more knowledgeable with their mobile device to perpetuate the crime,’’ he said.
However, Mr Gbolahan Awonuga, the Secretary of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria, said that the banking sector was already doing something about bank fraud.
Awonuga said that bank fraud was the operators’ issue as it depended on how the banks operated their security on mobile money.
“The banks need to do more in making sure that decoding security code is not an easy task for any fraudster,’’ he said.
This effort notwithstanding, other experts emphasise on observing cyber ethics by stakeholders.
Mr Olatunji Igbalajobi, the Chief Operating Officer, Cyber Code Ltd., said that cyber ethics should be the moral behaviour of internet usage.
The ethics have to do with appreciating values in computing for understanding and maintaining the relationship between computing professionals, researchers and the users.
“There is need to understand the basic role of information security and the need not to share confidential information about family and business online.
“One needs to have a secure password, build cyber security resilience system, pay attention to critical vulnerabilities, avoid cyber stocking and virus propagating,’’ he said.
He said that people should learn to properly mark, handle and disseminate classified information, and look for warning signs for insider threats and taking advantage of diplomatic security training centres.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) stakeholders, however, said that educating the public on cyber crime through various channels to reduce the effect of the crime on the populace was imperative.
They advise the Federal Government to work with ICT professionals in information sharing to curb the crime.
Mr Adede Williams, the National President, Association of Telecommunications Professionals of Nigeria, also said that ICT stakeholders and professionals were already educating the public on the effect of cybercrime.
“Cyber crime is one of the biggest crimes that can ever be imagined; and if we don’t address it, it may affect the economy.
“It is not a physical theft; it is a digital theft. So, government has to partner with stakeholders in the ICT sector,’’ he said.
Williams said stakeholders were also partnering with international community to see how the country could curb cyber crime.
Although cynics insist that it is somewhat tasking to eradicate cyber crime completely, they agree that constant updating of strategies to meet international best practice by all stakeholders will go a long way in curbing the scourge.