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NITDA to Nigerians: Be watchful online

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The government is taking awareness as a critical step in addressing the scourge of cybercrime in the country and preventing losses.

Disturbed by the increasing rate of frauds and attacks being perpetrated on the internet, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has warned Nigerians to be more sensitive and on the alert while using the internet. This warning, the agency said became imperative as there has been a tremendous increase in the number of incidences where Nigerians have lost money and data through vulnerabilities arising from lack of knowledge on how to manage their online presence and personal details.

According to a recent Cyber Security Report by Demadiur Systems, Nigeria lost not less than N234 billion ($649 million) to Cybercrime activities in 2017. The figure, however, represented a fraction of the total losses as most attacks were said not to have been officially reported. Analysis of the report shows that over 90 per cent of Nigerian businesses are operating without adequate cyber security protection as it indicated that the successes of most attacks in 2017 were in one way or another linked to one critical issue of weak security architecture. It also pointed out a specific challenge for Nigeria in fighting cybercrime, which is lack of cyber security skill and expertise.

Speaking on the need for Nigerians to be digitally aware, the Director General of NITDA, Dr Isa Pantami, said the cybercriminals are using social engineering, phishing mails, and probably specific to Nigeria, the use of text messages pretending to be sent from banks, requesting for PIN or revalidation of BVN numbers. “To the unaware, such are the sources where vital information needed for making unauthorized withdrawals from victims’ bank accounts occur” he said. The DG added that a more worrisome and recent trend is the SIM Swap cases, where the victim’s SIM card is swapped; an operation that makes the victim’s phone inaccessible while funds are transferred.

However, to increase the awareness among Nigerians, NITDA had started nationwide cybersecurity awareness workshops. Speaking on the initiative, the DG said: “These sensitization events are part of the agency’s continuous efforts aimed at equipping citizens with foundational knowledge as well as share best practices on staying safe in cyberspace. Knowing that everyone that uses ICT devices is vulnerable, these workshops target executives of registered associations and groups, with the ultimate aim to reach their members”.

Pantami added that NITDA had also deployed effective conventional channels and social media in conveying the stay-safe message. “The workshops use presentations and interactive demonstration of trending concepts like SMS, SIM swap, malware, phishing, social engineering and its manifestations, to disseminate the stay-safe tips. To further ensure that attendees assimilate the message succinctly, the contents are translated into the most predominant language of the zone”.

He noted that cybersecurity has attracted the attention of governments, enterprises, groups and individuals owing to the myriads of potentials for business growth, damage, national security and sovereignty. “To nations, the negatives could cripple a nation’s economy should critical infrastructure be affected. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has evaluated nations in the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI), placing Nigeria on number 4 in Africa. These programmes are also aimed at improving the country’s standing on the GCI” Pantami said.

He disclosed that NITDA has planned effective capacity building programmes that would culminate in organizational and individual certifications, while using Research and Development (R&D) results to feed these enlightenment programmes and aid relevant Agencies and corporates in permanent mitigation strategy. It has also utilized interagency collaborations for improved legal and institutional framework for a holistic improvement in the cybersecurity resilience of and profile of the country.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity experts had warned that with the on-going efforts to deepen mobile money in the country, Nigerians would be more vulnerable as the cyber criminals would take advantage of poor cyber security in the country to defraud many people through the mobile platforms. The noted that the more people go online, the more they are exposed to cyber-attacks, hence, they called for more awareness and security readiness.

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