Following a long history of cyber crimes in Nigeria, the image of the country has been dented. STANLEY OPARA looks at the challenges and possibilities of ameliorating the situation.
Currently, there are over 1,000 legitimate online malls that Nigerians cannot access as a result of the bad image that the country has been contending with for a very long time.
The irony of this challenge is that other smaller neighbouring African countries have unbridled access to these sites. In fact, to gain access to some of these sites, Nigerians must have to travel to these neighbouring countries or other countries outside Africa.
The situation has degenerated to a point where entries from Nigeria are automatically aborted once it is detected that Nigeria is the destination.
PayPal, one of the biggest global online electronic commerce businesses, has refused to establish business in the country despite the huge market the country boasts. PayPal allows payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet.
Up till now, the world sees Internet crime as Nigerian crime; and this has robbed the country and its people of many opportunities that would have ordinarily accrue to them.
Experts, however, say the Nigerian government needs to take conscious and calculated steps to convince the world that it is serious about the fight against cyber criminals.
One of the steps they stressed was very critical to this campaign, remained the passage of the Cyber Security Bill, which is currently being deliberated upon in the National Assembly.
This campaign was given a lift when the International Telecommunication Union appointed the wife of the President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, as the union’s Online Protection Champion.
The union said it believed in Mrs. Jonathan’s ability to spread the cyber security message and push for necessary reforms, not only in the Africa region, but across the globe.
Jonathan received her letter of appointment from the Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau, ITU, Mr. Brahima Sanou, who met with her to discuss issues related to cyber threats and cyber security in the Africa region.
Under Jonathan is a global ‘patron’ for child online protection and the President of Costa Rica, Ms. Laura Chinchilla. The investiture of the appointments was done at the ITU Secretariat, Geneva on July 20, this year.
The ITU, through its International Multilateral Partnership Against Cyber Threats arm, had set up the Child Online Protection initiative in 2008 to safeguard the interest of children and others online.
Between 2008 and 2013, issues bordering on such had aggravated and could not be matched with the model developed five years ago; hence, the need to develop cotemporary models, which encompass the World Cyber Security Conference’s idea.
Mr. Tim Akano of the West Africa Industry Partner, ITU-IMPACT, was quoted as saying, “We resolved that since cybercrime does not respect geographical boundary, fighting the menace can only be achieved through partnership with other cyber security organisations and institutions across the world.
“We said there is the need for an immense globally coordinated approach to the fight against cybercrime. We also called on all nations to support the programme of actualising a safer online environment for our younger generation through the much canvassed Public Private Partnership arrangement.”
The World Cyber Security Conference, which is an annual event, according to Akano, has since become the biggest gathering of ICT security experts in Africa since its birth three years ago.
Reaffirming the importance of the recent move of the ITU, Akano, who is also the Managing Director of New Horizons, an Information Technology training institute, recalled his experience when he was applying for franchise to run the institute at the United States.
He said on the day he was to be given the franchise, a panel in the US brought before him a file of over 5,000 emails containing fraudulent correspondences from Nigeria. According to him, the development almost cost him the franchise of New Horizons, which is one of Nigeria’s biggest IT training platforms today.
Owing to the fact that much of these cybercrimes are financial in nature, the role of the Central Bank of Nigeria cannot be overemphasised.
On the bank’s position, Deputy Governor, CBN, Mr. Tunde Lemo, said while cash served the transactional purpose within the economy, its social and economic costs were astounding, whereas there were opportunities to leverage digital technology to migrate a part (not all) of the heavy transactional cash by the use of electronic payment alternatives
He said, “Cybercrime has surpassed illicit drug trade as global top revenue earner for organised crimes. The cybercrime network has become a highly organised ecosystem with its own value chain including: researchers of stronger attack methods; hackers who compromise account data and make them available to dump vendors.”
The dump vendors are wholesalers of compromised account data, who sell to various street level fraudsters. He added that there were fraud rings/networks spanning across the globe currently.
According to Lemo, the industrialisation of cyber fraud poses a great challenge to the cash-less society in Nigeria. He said the prevalence of fraud globally is contributory to the growing technophobia as users were apprehensive for the safety of their funds on electronic payment platforms.
The reluctance in the adoption of electronic payments, he added, was equally attributable to security concerns as well as low level of awareness on personal responsibility for the protection of identity and account details
To deliver the global assignment of child online protection, Jonathan had said there would be investments in capacity building in partnership with all relevant stakeholders, both nationally and internationally.
A Technical Advisory Committee, which will consist of 17 reputable individuals from both within and outside Nigeria, is also being looked at.
She is also considering the establishment of a child online protection centre in each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, with wives of each of the states governors being encouraged to take up the new assignment as state COP ambassadors.
She also pledged to use her office as President, African First Ladies Peace Mission, to enlist the support of her colleagues to champion the cause of COP in their respective countries; while also working closely with both the Nigerian Communications Commission and various telecoms service providers, to ensure there is a working system in place.
She added, “We will intensify efforts to ensure that the National Assembly passes into law, the Cyber Security Bill, which I understand is still receiving legislative attention, since its submission.
“It is my hope that the National Assembly will accord the passage of this important bill a priority attention. Thereafter, we will embark on a continental advocacy to ensure that every country has strong cyber security laws in place to protect our children and future.”
The communiqué issued after the third World Cyber Security Conference, held in Nigeria with over 1,000 local and international experts from various sectors of the economy in attendance, had called on the National Assembly to pass into law the Cyber Security Bill 2013.
It maintained that Nigeria needed to have a cyber security law that will guide government agencies and private sector organisations in planning their information technology policies.
The communiqué added that the law was meant to improve Nigeria’s image and open the doors for more direct foreign investments.
Commenting on the new move by Nigeria to redefine its image, world cyber security expert and Chief Executive Officer, Data Sentry, Texas, Mr. Tim Pierson, said, “This had left a very good and permanent impression on the international community, especially those of us in the cyber security arena – who have been patiently waiting for years to see tangible evidence of Nigeria’s seriousness at the highest level in fighting cyber crimes.”