The Race Against Cybercrimes In Nigeria, By Inyene Ibanga

Crimes and criminality have shifted from the physical environment to cyberspace, where criminals operate now without any physical restriction, and where their footprints can traverse the entire terrain, and become fairly difficult to trace. The ability to distort the use of what is otherwise is one of the most liberating and progressive tools of this highly connected and global Age, and lend it to a nefarious purpose, is one of the most worrying concerns of this 21st Century. As a result, many individuals, businesses, corporate organisations, as well as government and other public institutions, have experienced one form of cybercrime or cyber-attack or the other.

The United Nations refers to cybercrime as any activity that uses information and communications technology (ICT) against the interest of others, to steal, or any situation whereby a computer network is the target of dubious endeavours and criminals. Cybercrimes range from the sending out of fraudulent emails for the purpose of scamming another person, identity theft, cyber harassment, phishing, spamming and ATM spoofing, which are all geared towards rendering of the victims of these actions vulnerable to exploitation, dispossessing them of valuable data and pilfering money from them.

Most trading and business transactions are now conducted on the Internet, and this has become the new normal. The restriction on physical interactions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more necessary for businesses to converge on the Internet and increasingly make use of its resources. In fact, businesses have now set up shop and have huge presences on the Internet, through which they reach out to customers across all sorts of geographic locations, and consummate transactions.

The social media remains a major target of cyber-attacks due to the huge footprints or massive traffic on the different platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This has seen to the hacking of individual and corporate accounts, such as those belonging to celebrities, government institutions and officials, etc

While one of the more prominent ways in which cyber-attacks impact on individuals, businesses, and public institutions in Nigeria include the loss of funds through the acts of scamming and confidence tricks, other no less significant impacts consist of reputational damage, breach of customer trust, and theft of intellectual property. More so, these impacts can lead to harmful disruptions, regulatory sanctions, and in some cases result in the collapse of some businesses. As a matter of fact, Nigeria’s image at home and abroad has suffered because of the activities of a number of its citizens involved in cybercrimes.

These activities actually pose a grave danger to any economy, as foreign and even local investors become reluctant to plough their funds into places where there is a great possibility of losing these funds to con artists or scammers. As such, any attempt to overlook these threats can only spell doom for an economy, and leave the people there to suffer the consequences of shrinking incomes, reduced ability to seek gainful work and dwindling public services.

Recently, the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami inaugurated the upgraded Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team (CERRT) at the headquarters of National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Abuja.

This initiative could be described as a direct response to the menace of cyber-attacks in Nigeria. It provides a platform for some level of security to exist in the country’s cyberspace. From this, individuals and corporate entities can expect the necessary security and surveillance of the cyberspace to be mounted, especially in view of the increasing spate of cybercrimes targeted at Nigerian businesses.

CERRT is a timely response and government platform for coordinating and facilitating information sharing, while equally providing mitigation strategies for incident response and recovery from the activities of criminals on the Internet. As an initiative of NITDA, the platform functions to encourage government and private sector collaboration in the security development of the cyberspace.

The Team will engage in the research and analyses of the trends and patterns of cybercrimes for the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government, as well as the private sector. Part of its responsibilities is to publish regular alerts and advisories on the latest cybersecurity threats and how to mitigate their risks.

Other duties of CERRT will include the development of human capital, with emphasis on IT security and the provision of cybersecurity awareness and education to citizens.

Without doubt, the objectives and functions of the CERRT is clearly outlined to enable it deliver on its responsibilities without any hindrance. But we cannot overlook the usual challenges of bureaucracy that tend to throw spanners in the wheels of laudable initiatives, which then ended up as wastes of efforts and public resources.

As such, NITDA must strive to provide priority to two key areas, which have to do with developing programmes that will help create awareness and provide vital education to the teeming population of Nigerian individual and business users of the Internet. This must include the campaign on the need to understand and follow the guidelines on how to secure eed to one’s data and protect our footprints in cyberspace.

This education needs to carry along all citizens, irrespective of the statuses of their IT knowledge, with special emphasis made on reaching out to rural dwellers, who are gradually becoming Internet users, and hence some of the most vulnerable demography to the schemes of cybercriminals. Awareness creation should begin at the rural level before it is expanded to the urban centres.

For this project to become successful, the government would need to continuously upgrade on expertise across emerging specialisations in the ICT industry for members of CERRT and others in the Internet security and regulation spaces. As the world keeps migrating onto Internet based platforms and the participation of Nigerians in the cyberspace increases, while the skills of cybercriminals also gets more sophisticated, these personnel have to undergo regular training for enhanced capacity. And equally to be able to discharge their functions with professionalism and a high sense of accountability. They would thus serve as cyber armies and police to tackle cyber-attacks, protect vital economic assets, alongside the inhabitants of the country.

To the end of creating awareness and engaging in the massive education of Nigerian towards the goal of achieving a more secure Internet environment, NITDA would need to enlist the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in its broad social outreach. A strategic partnership between NITDA and NOA would go a long way in mitigating the security threats to individuals, businesses, and public institutions in the cyberspace. Importantly, the agency has to take its objective of developing durable partnerships with private sector players in ICT as essential, in building the collaboration that will make it much easier to deliver on the mandate of CERRT.

About the Author: Inyene Ibanga writes from Wuye, Abuja. Email: inyeneibanga@yahoo.com

Source: Premium Times

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