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Growing cyber-terrorism, scamming in West Africa: How to fight back (2)

In Nigeria, a number of key factors can be identified as the cause of this problem. These include high rate of unemployment, the quest for quick wealth amongst the youths, and lack of strong cybercrime laws. This is not to undermine the current structures put in place by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). However, putting people in jail from time to time does not solve the problem of cybercrime. To curtail the emergence of this menace, there should be massive cyber awareness programmes to make people technically savvy to protect their assets from fraudsters. And of course incompetent security on personal devices amongst others things have conjoined to make cybercrime a significant problem in the country.

For instance in Nigeria today, the estimated annual financial loss due to cybercrime was N250 billion, equivalent to $649 million in 2017. In 2018, the loss was N288 billion, equivalent to $800 million. Cybercrime has destroyed almost the reputation of many youths in Nigeria, as well making the business environment very difficult for start-ups and small medium enterprises, and this also discourages investment in the economy by foreign companies.

Now there are many initiatives employed by different other countries to combat cybercrimes, which I think Nigeria can of course emulate. But one of the problems I observe from Nigerian governing system is emulating primitive policies which do not go with the trends of the technology of today. Take for instance the ban of crypto currency which was said to be a major contribution to terrorist activities. It is far from what we perceive as efforts to counter cyber terrorism and illegal related cyber activities. And we can off course learn something from the Anti-Scam Policy set up in Singapore. The Anti-Scam Policy in Singapore was set up by the Singaporean police in collaboration with three major banks in Singapore. And one of the things the Anti-Scam Centre does is that it disrupts the operations of scammers by impeding fund transfers. And in just two months, the Anti-Scam Centre received 1,047 cases in which victims had lost a total of $2.4 million. The centre managed to freeze 815 bank accounts and recovered 35% of the amount lost, isn’t that a progress? But in Nigeria we keep hearing massive cases of fraudsters arrested and the next paragraph of the story is that they either pay a large amount of fine, imprisonment or both. This cannot stop fraudulent activities.

Here are some security tips

Inasmuch as criminal activities will always be, there are a number of simple security tips we can as well put in place to secure ourselves such as having an updated and recognized anti-virus software, avoiding pop-ups requiring personal information, using strong passwords, and ignoring emails or calls requiring financial details to help unblock cards or accounts etc. This will go a long way in preventing security breaches. Nigeria at the moment is experiencing a surge in cybercrimes supported by the prevailing economic conditions. The high rate of unemployment and the quest for quick wealth are the two major factors which drive individuals towards cybercrime. This threat poses a great risk, which can only be eliminated through the strict enforcement of cybercrime laws, provision of lucrative opportunities in the economy, information sharing etc. But however, in the medium to long term, increasing awareness could help to mitigate the cyber threats, if action is taken.

And to keep our institutions and assets on safeguard they are as well structures that has to be in place to keep our businesses operate smooth and easy like adhering to tips like Anti-virus software, Digital IDs or certificates, Encrypted files, Intrusion detection systems, Firewalls, Access control, Management support in addressing security issues (Counter Actions), Adequate training of security personnel, Adequate training of IT personnel, Accurately prioritizing information security against other business needs, Keeping up to date with changes in technology.

Also let me conclude by asking a question that glares in the mind of every youth. Why is a Nigerian citizen always spotted as an accomplice to many illegal cyber related activities today? Well, Nigerian youths have various challenges to transcend to become fulfilled individuals. As much as human needs are insatiable, there are basic necessities that make up the human way of living and thinking as well. For instance, to gain admission into a university or other higher institutions of learning in Nigeria is quite a scuffle. And after that is fought and won, you have the battle of unemployment; difficulties in starting a small scale enterprise as the government rarely gives grants to graduates that most time can barely achieve the aim of many.

However, Nigeria is blessed with both human and material resources to get over all that, but the leaders have not been able to utilize them in order to yield maximum economic benefits to the masses. So I think this and other factors are the primary causes of youth’s redirections to engage in fraudulent activities. Let us take for instance Nigerian population is estimated to amount to about 206 million individuals. And as at the time of writing this article according to the latest report released from world meter, the current population of Nigeria is over 209 million making the youths 43.69 per cent.

So, in considering our efforts in combating illegal cyber related activities, we should as well look at the moral factors affecting the trends of this menace emanating most especially from this region and ultimately raise awareness programmes in educating the masses to protect themselves from falling as victims of these criminals.

Ibenu Jr. works with BusinessDay as an IT Engineer and currently a part-time Associate lecturer of computer studies in the Institute of Human Resource Management affiliated to Escae University.

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