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Nigeria’s indifference raises concern amid global cyber warfare

Ransomware attack: Retail sector emerges second most targeted

Nigeria’s rather indifferent position to the cyber warfare brewing amongst nations and multinationals is stirring fresh concerns among industry watchers. Analysts, who continue to bemoan the presidency’s failure to expedite action on the final passage of the Cybercrime Bill, fear that the country could be in dire danger in the near future if it continues to drag its feet towards tightening its cyberspace.

Cyber security experts earlier predicted an increase in cyber crimes last year (2014) in line with the growing usage of the internet globally – with Nigeria ranking 8th behind the likes of China, US, Russia, Brazil, etc. Taiwo Longe, Chief Information Security Officer, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while speaking at the National Cyber Security Forum (NCSF 2014) last year was keen to highlight the growing rate of cyber crimes in the country.

“With the growing threat of cyber criminals, the need for a policy framework to address the menace has become more imperative now than ever before,” he said.

Cyber warfare is a deliberate action by a nation-state or international organization to attack and attempt to damage another nation’s computers or information networks through, for example, computer viruses or denial-of-service attacks hit a new height in 2014, with the huge cyber-attack on Sony that crippled the company’s film division being the most prominent.

In Nigeria, cyber attacks were reported to have targeted mostly banks and other financial institutions, oil and gas firms as well as government agencies, as the ugly trend continues to soar on at an average 14 per cent on a year-on-year basis.

Between year 2000 and 2013, Nigerian banks have lost an estimated N159 billion to cyber crimes according to reports by the Nigerian Inter-bank Settlements Systems (NIBSS). The Central Bank of Nigeria’s report for the first half of 2013 indicated that there were 2,478 fraud and forgery cases involving Nigerian banks valued at over N20 billion. This represented an 8 percent increase over the previous year volume but a considerable increase in value of over 200 percent from 2012.

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Cyber specialists McAfee Labs in recent report claims cyber warfare will no longer remain the domain of Great Powers, with small nation states and even terrorist groups expected to have a go at it more frequently in the coming years.

The report predicts that 2015’s uptick in cyber warfare applications will pose a direct threat to governments and civilians alike, adding that there will also be a focus on gathering valuable intel on high-profile people and intellectual property as well as operational intelligence’ by terrorists and small states.

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Analysts have consistently maintained Nigeria’s weak legal framework in a global village has continued to offer a leeway for cyber criminals who more often than not use the country as a base from which to target developed economies.

“Many cyber criminals use emerging markets like Nigeria as a base from which to target developed economies. This is often because while the tools – bandwidth and internet connections – are in place, enforcement agencies don’t have the ability to regulate these illegal activities,” Pfungwa Serima, CEO SAP Africa, told Business Day in an earlier report.

Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman, National Communication Commission (NCC), who spoke at the National Cyber security Forum 2014 held in Lagos and organised by the Office of the National Security Adviser, said that multi-stakeholder partnership was essential to the development of robust public policies required to combat cyber crime in the country. He added that the global economic loss due to cyber crimes and cost of system repairs as a result of cyber attacks ran into billions of Naira annually.

As the Nigerian economy heads towards a cashless society, the adoption of e-banking is undoubtedly necessary. E-banking users are a potentially attractive customer segment for banks in the country. In a bid to tap into this potential market segment, banks must address the issue of cyber attacks. An emphasis should be laid on the deployment of fraud detection solutions which could help guard against fraud and also protect customers against e-channel frauds.

Accordingly, Bank security measures should be positioned along the domains of preventive, detective and response measures and in the areas of people, processes and technology, particularly in high risk technical areas such as email servers, ERP systems, Web application servers and several others.

A number of developed economies have created a national cyber security strategy in the past five years. They are also developing information-sharing mechanisms to detect and respond to cyber threats swiftly. An example is the UK Fusion Cell, which brings experts from government and the private sector together in an information-sharing and threat-analysis hub.

Analysts estimate global losses to cyber crime to be over $400bn annually and recent cyber attacks on Sony, JP Morgan Chase and a handful of other U. S. Banks is an indication that cyber crime is here to stay.

DAN OJABO