Minister, American Council decry rise in cybercrimes in Nigeria

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, alongside the American Business Council (ABC), is worried about the spate of cyber criminals’ activities in Nigeria and other parts of the globe.

Speaking at a virtual cybersecurity conference organised by the American Business Council (ABC) in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), Pantami said cyber-attacks are growing at a rapid rate with more malware being launched than ever before.

Pantami noted the growing impact of cybercrime across the globe, especially with a large percentage of engagements that have been moved to online platforms as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He called for concerted efforts to curb the rising influence of the menace in Nigeria and other parts of the globe.

At the meeting, it was disclosed that a new piece of malware is released every day within 4.2 seconds. It was stressed that one of the problems that Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) face is how to combat the sheer volume of malware bombarding the public.

It was further noted that the resulting damages of cyber-attacks are not only increasing, but are unfortunately projected to lead to a loss of approximately $5.2 trillion across the globe by 2023, according to Accenture.

The meeting noted that this is over 35 per cent of the GDP of China, 137 per cent the GDP of Germany or over 173 per cent to GDP of the entire African continent.

According to the gathering, the loss to global economies is expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025, as such, “cyber losses” economy would be the third largest economy, after the United States and China.

President of the ABC and CEO of IBM West Africa, Dipo Faulkner, pointed out that the increase in Internet users inevitably brought with it an increase in cybercrime.

Faulkner said the coronavirus pandemic which forced an increase in the percentage of work done in cyberspace caused a huge shift, stressing that in Nigeria alone, mobile Internet users grew from 68.5 million in 2019 to 85.26 million in 2020.

According to him, Nigeria, ranked number 16 out of the top 20 international countries affected by cybercrime on the FBI’s Internet crime report published 2020. He said this shows that urgent attention needs to be directed to the sector.

In a bid to tackle this growing problem, Faulkner said the ABC has developed local talents to create innovative solutions to cybersecurity issues at a cyber hackathon that commenced in August 2021.

From his perspective, Director of Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft, John Edokpolo, said, “You need certain data to stay in the country, data classification is important. The risk is to make sure you don’t over classify data. You find out in the UK less than five per cent of data is too secret and because there is a cost to hosting data and domesticating applications. There is a need to find a balance of protecting data and also not stifling innovation and making sure people have access to data.”

Speaking on the challenges faced with partnerships to resolve cybersecurity issues, Merith Berry of Amazon pointed out how the company is addressing them.

“We partner closely with the US government as well as other friendly governments as they seek to enforce some of these cyber-security considerations. My focus is raising the state of play for security at an enterprise level, so being able to do not just scalable innovation, but finding a way to derive insight securely and to do that in a way that is deliberate and has a coherent government strategy around the use of that data. We often seek to help governments understand how cloud computing works, and how we can provide a kind of safe environment for enterprises to build them on,” Berry stated.

Head, Cyber Risk Services, Deloitte West Africa, Temitope Aladenusi, said data is important in resolving the problem, adding that the data protection bill should help prevent data hacks.

Jilian Forester of USTDA said they supported several activities focused specifically on cyber-security in Kenya and South Africa.

“We’d like to do more in Nigeria and Ghana as well. All infrastructure developments should incorporate cyber-security considerations early on. It can’t be an afterthought. We have to be proactive and not reactive,” Forester said.

Pointing out lessons for Nigerians, Forester said companies and agencies need to check where their risks are, threats that are unique to them and what their priorities are. “Then they should develop a plan to address these priorities. A risk-based approach isn’t prescriptive. Nigeria can collaborate and work with the NIST and I think they’ll welcome this collaboration.

“We are constantly working to improve how we structure our assistance in emerging markets where we’re active to ensure that feasibility studies and technical assistance are building in cyber-security considerations not only in ICT but other sectors. We are constantly looking for new partners and new ways to support using our tools.”

Senior Partner, Punuka Attorneys and Solicitors, Anthony Idigbe, said the private sector has a role to play in terms of voluntary compliance, because they suffer the most in terms of cyber breach in cybersecurity.

He said there should be a high level of voluntary compliance in the private sector.

“To combat cybercrime, information sharing is very important. Companies that are attacked don’t share information with others. Private sector needs to drive the technology to provide the support to the government. Vendor procurement process should also be robust because if there is an intervention at the chip manufacturing, the process may be compromised,” he stated.

Advisory CISO, Duo Security, Cisco, Richard Archdeacon, observed that there is a huge issue with the increasing use of the Internet. “I did research in Europe, where each European countries’ rolled out broadband so the phishing attacks rose in direct correlation. So we have to expect those breaches as new initiatives take off. We can also look at it from the appropriateness and the capacity building level. The appropriate use of the Internet and social media is critical and the consumer needs to build capacity to protect themselves.”

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