31,536,000; the number of seconds that made up the year 2014. Around the world, each second was used effectively by hackers in planning attacks and exploiting vulnerable people, systems and processes. Brazen attacks unlike anything we have ever witnessed before were carried out and from all indications, 2015 is likely to be another roller coaster ride.
From the reported hack on the US retail giant (Target), to the Sony pictures entertainment security breach, there is a growing trend in terms of bravado on the part of hackers. In 2014, the National Assembly of Nigeria made a bold move in the war against cybercrime when the Senate passed the Cybercrime Bill. This feat in addition to the cyber security strategy and policy documents introduced by the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) are attributes that define 2014 as the year of the awakening.
With each cyber-attack, companies lose millions, trust by consumers get eroded and a trove of confidential information are published. In 2015, we are expecting newspaper front-page headlines to include issues around cyber security incidents. The year will witness an increase in cyber security issues that may likely reduce towards the last quarter. However, the reduction will only be based on a successful implementation of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) and electronic ID by the National Identity Management Committee (NIMC).
Our 2014 cyber security outlook was an eye-opener into the Nigerian cyberspace as all the predictions made were accurate. 2015 must therefore not be underestimated as the seeming deduction is that the hackers are always one step ahead; this is a gap that must be bridged. Based on current events in both social and economic realms in Nigeria, we have reviewed below some of the cyber security trends and threats that are likely to be significant in 2015.
Phishing and insider threats will continue to be biggest cyber threat sources in Nigeria especially as crude oil prices continue to fall:
Phishing is a form of social engineering that attempts to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and ATM card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing is a continual threat that keeps growing to this day. The risk grows even larger in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace etc.
An Insider threat is a malicious threat to an organization that comes from people within the organization, such as employees, former employees, contractors or business associates, who have insider information concerning the organization’s security practices, data and computer systems. As companies take austerity measures such as downsizing and salary slashing due to the falling crude oil prices and the devaluation of the naira, there is a higher risk that employees, former employees or contractors result to cybercrime as a means to maintain their standard of living.
We are likely going to see an unprecedented rise in attacks from disgruntled employees. The cybercrime of choice by majority of the Nigerian cyber criminals would be via social engineering. Intelligently crafted phishing emails and phone calls to naïve customers will increase.
Socially and politically motivated cyber-attacks:
With the coming elections in 2015, there may be an increase in the cyber-attack of the websites and information technology (IT) infrastructure of political organisations and public institutions possibly as a means of expressing grievances. Nigeria witnessed a similar occurrence during the socio-political protest movement of January 2012 in response to the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government. These attacks could be in form of denial of service attacks and website defacements. Also, there is the potential for increased numbers in local hacker groups to further their agenda by compromising or attacking Government-owned infrastructure. As such, this is a call to all stakeholders concerned to put the necessary security measures in their cyber infrastructure.
Prosecution of cyber related crimes is likely to experience a major boost:
With the passage of the cybercrime bill by the Senate, organisations will now have legal basis for prosecuting cybercrime once it is signed into law. Organizations can put measures in place to track down cyber criminals. We are likely to see more collaboration between organizations in tackling cybercrime as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) drives the Nigerian e-Fraud Forum (NeFF) – where banks meet to share experiences on fraud and mitigating factors. The sharing of cyber security intelligence in the financial sector is expected to grow in 2015 and would serve as a model for other areas of the economy. From the just concluded annual Deloitte Chief Information Security Officer roundtable event in December 2014, there was a recurring theme of cyber security intelligence sharing as a win-win way to tackle cybercrime and be steps ahead of the hacker. This will also boost efforts in tracking and prosecuting cyber criminals.
Outsourcing of Information Security function:
With the shortage of security specialist skills in many companies, the ever-changing threat landscape and the need for 24/7 monitoring and response on certain technological platform especially in Financial Institutions and telecom companies, organizations will need to continually invest more in implementing additional security infrastructure, security training for their personnel and active recruitment for currently skilled professionals. And with prudency in budgeting for organizations, more companies will consider outsourcing their information security function as a more viable option.
Increased compliance costs in non-financial sectors:
In 2015, we are likely to see new sets of compliance regulations for industries with connection to the financial sector. Though the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has regulated the financial services industry with a variety of compliance rules in 2014, we are likely to see talks or nascent development stages of information security compliance standards for other areas of the economy. There will be an increase in the cost of compliance as regulators may require organizations to comply with new regulations, with repercussions for defaulting. Also with the adoption of the COBIT5 framework by Nigeria, other sectors will soon need to have security policies that align with leading frameworks and standards.
Senior level executives will be held more accountable and possibly fired for security breaches:
We are likely to see executive dismissals as a direct result of security breaches. Senior level executives will be held more accountable and possibly fired for security breaches if adequate measures are not in place. More so, if the brand of an organization suffers to recover in time as a result of a security breach, Chief Information Security Officers and Chief Information Officers will come under serious ‘fire’ from the board and top executives as they struggle to cope with incessant attacks on their networks. According to a report by Gartner, “through 2016, 75% of CISO’s who experience publicly disclosed security breaches and lack documented, tested response plans will be fired.”
The unending battle in cyberspace calls for a more proactive, predictive and robust system that can match tools and techniques used by cyber criminals. Organizations need to ensure they increase vigilance of their assets, learn from previous mistakes and deploy appropriate countermeasures in order to survive in 2015.
I wish you a cyber-secure New Year.