Cybersecurity; Now the Panic Starts

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Monday, September 20, 2021 / 11:47 AM / Iyioluwabomi Onakoya,Research Intern / Header Image Credit: Homeland Security


Corporate organisations have increasingly been under the cosh as vicious attacks by cybercriminals have created notable losses for companies across the globe. Indeed, the predicted loss from cybercrime is expected to rise to US$6trn in 2021, which is approximately 14 times Nigeria's 2020 GDP. In August 2021 alone, a minimum of 60m data records was subject to breaches worldwide, creating a wealth of opportunities for criminals.


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Cyber attacks; the Financial Punching Bags

Research by Kaspersky showed that financial institutions are the most targeted businesses in Africa, probably because of the increasing adoption of digital solutions on the continent. The company identified banking/financial trojans, ransomware, and crypto-miner malware as the major malicious software affecting South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria in H1 2021. Therefore, governments worldwide are directing their attention to the reduction of cybercrime in their respective countries. Singapore's government has chosen to throw money at its problems by introducing its new vulnerability rewards program (VRP). The VRP rewards hackers with up to $150,000 for discovering and reporting security vulnerabilities in critical government systems. 

 

High unemployment and poverty are partly to blame for the high rate of cyber-related crimes in Nigeria as citizens glorify the profession. The poor state of cybersecurity in the country was highlighted by British security research firm, Comparitech's recent publication that ranked Nigeria in the top 40 least cyber safe countries out of a sample of 75 countries. The Index includes the International Telecommunication Union's (ITUs) 2020 global cybersecurity Index. The Index identified malware, phishing, and capacity development as the greatest threats to Nigeria's cybersecurity. 

 

The Cyber Punch Fest

Researchers at ITU noted that institutions must continue to fight against cybersecurity attacks to prevent data privacy breaches and property loss. According to the ITU, Nigeria has an adequate number of legal rules to guide internet activities. What is missing is the strict implementation and enforcement of Nigeria's cybercrime Act 2015 by public officers and agencies. Local analysts note that criminals cannot prosecute criminals. They, therefore, argue that cybercriminals and shady public officers must be made to face the full extent of the law to discourage lousy internet behaviour.  

 

Tech analysts observe that collaboration between tertiary institutions with a bias for computing could help popularise technical digital education in Nigeria, emphasizing computing supported by good social and governance values. Government and private institutions may also grant promising students low-interest loans for digital education, leading to employment. The rewards would be mutually beneficial; while the individual gains an excellent education, the government would earn more significant tax income from a skilled digital workforce. The scheme would improve human capital by educating idle citizens in programming, coding, content development and turn them into brilliant entrepreneurs/visionaries.

 

The rise of influencer marketing in Nigeria makes it a possible solution to combat cybersecurity threats. The rise of the 'white hat' influencer would grant experts in cyber threats - including yahoo boys- the opportunity to earn legitimate income. The Cybersecurity Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN) could partner with influencers to circulate disseminate information to users. Partnering with the right influencers to market events may increase public attendance at these events and ensure a more significant social impact. 


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Regulation Leading to Cooperation

Also, the global rise in cybercrime has necessitated the need for governments to be a step ahead of hackers. Governments may need to offer local cybersecurity experts attractive employment packages to prevent capital flight and reduce the risk of frequent network breaches. These professionals could use blockchain technology to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive government data. Local cybersecurity experts can develop innovative, high-quality infrastructure, multi-factor authentication, and built-in virus and malware detection software.   

 

Additionally, the sensitization of citizens addresses one of the root causes of the problem; a lack of knowledge. Advertisements may use catchy jingles, cartoons, and storytelling measures to capture the attention of citizens of all ages. Organizers can draw their team from a treasure trove of creative people to produce inspiring content for citizens. This can assist in promoting safe cyber practices such as multi-factor authentication that would make it more difficult for cybercriminals to trick people.  

           

Finally, crucial components of cybersecurity, including proper ethics and employment opportunities within the field, should be integrated into the Nigerian educational system. From as early as their primary school education, children must understand the central issues concerning cybersecurity and its social and economic implications (see illustration 1 below).


Illustration 1: Mitigating cybercrime in Nigeria

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Cybercrime is rapidly becoming a menace around the world. However, countries like Denmark and Estonia have improved their digital cyberspace remarkably through effective policies and strategies. The previous recommendations may assist in reducing cybersecurity attacks, at least in the medium to long term.

 

After all, no criminal likes to get caught, even the most hardened.


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