January 29, 2020 /04:42 PM / By FDC Ltd / Header
Image Credit: Message Magazine
With about 3.9 billion users, the internet has become one of the greatest technological developments. While widely accepted for its ease and efficiency, it is also embedded with a multitude of vulnerabilities, which pose significant security threats to users and has led to the emergence of cybercrime.
Cybercrime, which includes any crime committed with the aid of a computer and network (e.g. phishing, bank verification number scams, fraudulent emails, hacking, cyber harassment, spamming, ATM spoofing, social media hi-jacking etcetera), exploits vulnerabilities of both electronic devices and their users. In Nigeria, a number of key factors - such as a high rate of unemployment, the quest for wealth, a lack of strong cybercrime laws, and incompetent security on personal devices amongst others - have coalesced to make cybercrime a significant problem for the country.The estimated annual financial loss in Nigeria due to cybercrime was N250 billion ($649 million) in 2017 and N288 billion ($800 million) in 2018.
Cybercrime destroys the reputation of a country, making the business environment difficult for start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises, while discouraging investment in the economy by foreign companies. For individuals, cybercrime results in the loss of financial resources, intellectual property or personal confidential information, and the damages can be extreme, often targeting senior citizens and people who are vulnerable. In 2018, in the US, roughly 62,000 people age 60 or older reported losses totaling over $649 million.
This is only based on crimes reported. McAfee estimates that 95% of cybercrimes go unreported. With Nigeria venturing into a cashless society, the threat of cybercrime becomes all the more relevant. There needs to be integrated efforts between individuals, businesses, the Nigerian government and the international community. Reforms such as increasing awareness on the mode of operations of cyber criminals, improved personal security, establishment of anti-scam centers etc are vital in minimizing cybercrimes. In an effort to combat cybercrimes in Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced a risk-based cyber security framework and guidelines for deposit money banks and payment service providers. This framework lays out proactive steps to secure critical information assets including customer information that is accessible via the internet.
There are many initiatives employed by different countries to combat cybercrimes, which Nigeria can emulate. One example is the Anti-Scam Centre in Singapore. Set up by the police in collaboration with the three major banks, the Anti-Scam Centre disrupts the operations of scammers by impeding fund transfers. In two months, the Anti-Scam Centre received 1,047 cases in which victims had lost a total of $2.4 million ($1.8 million). The centre managed to freeze 815 bank accounts and recovered 35% of the amount lost, or about S$840,000 ($623,000) - which is significantly higher than the average recovery rates for these types of scams. Similarly, Canada has an Anti-Fraud Centre which is the central agency in Canada that collects information and criminal intelligence on cybercrimes.
In 2018, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre received 59,009 fraud reports from victims and businesses, with losses reported totaling $97,654,160.35. However, the centre estimates that less than 5% of fraud victims file a report, which poses a challenge in its ability to provide current information on ways to prevent similar attacks. The Dubai Financial Services Authority initiated a cyber threat intelligence platform in partnership with the Dubai Electronic Security Centre, the National Computer Emergency Response Team and the Computer Incident Response Centre (based in Luxembourg). The platform is scheduled to go live in January 2020. The platform will harbor an ecosystem that encourages information exchange and offers enhanced cyber threat intelligence solutions. Thus, all participants across industries must partake in an open dialogue about cyber security. This is in a bid to reduce the information asymmetry in the economy.
For individuals, simple security tips 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, will go a long way in preventing security breaches.17 Nigeria 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. However, in the medium to long term, increasing awareness could help mitigate the cyber threats, if action is taken.