The internet is increasingly becoming ubiquitous. No serious endeavour in the organised society of today is to be thought of without taking into consideration a major or subsidiary role for information and communications technology. The internet has therefore become necessity for all models of business, governance and administration.
Side by side with the foregoing, concerns over safety in the cyber space are growing across the globe. As in real life, there are true and real time criminals on the net looking for fortune and lucre in sophisticated modes and ambushing just about anyone with an unguarded flank. There are internet highway men, armed not with guns but with the intricate wisdom of the operational patterns of IT programmes and computer software, with which they waylay and rob both suspecting and unsuspecting victims in their legions.
Patrons of red light districts in the cyber world are teasing and laying mines for those who might want to try at every turn. Unwary kids get sucked into pornographic webs or into the hands of paedophiles before their parents suspect anything. Likewise, gullible adults are easily tricked and exposed to financial and social ruination. A million dollar criminal industry that has come to be called yahoo-yahoo has been booming in Nigeria since the onset of the ICT era.
It is worthwhile to recall the huge scam in which four Nigerians dispossessed a Brazilian bank of $200 million in April, 2004. But for the timely intervention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) then led by the redoubtable Nuhu Ribadu, these criminal geniuses would have become millionaires at someone else’s expense and without breaking a sweat.
Elaborate scams are hatched in this way in which hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars are ripped off individuals and organisations. Again it is pertinent to recall how in 2012, the popular social network site, Facebook, was used by some wicked fellows still standing trial, to lure a hapless lady into their lair where they cruelly raped, dispossessed her of her belongings, and then murdered her. There are a myriad of people who have suffered identity theft, hijack of their legitimate accounts, lost money or valuable information to people they have never met and may never meet.
With no clear-cut laws or rules governing traffic in the online environment, there is the need to guarantee the safety of information and its associated variables in an age where virtually every engagement is becoming automated. With this in mind, the executive vice chairman, Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah recently joined in calling for a clean cyberspace as this is the only sure way to winning the confidence of foreign investors. Juwah spoke at a forum on cyber security organised by the office of the National Security Adviser in Lagos. Represented by the executive commissioner, technical Standards at the NCC, Alhaji Abubakar Maina, he called for a multi-stakeholder approach to combat cyber crime.
According to him, capacity building in cyber security is necessary for the development of a sustainable and proactive national cyber security culture. He stated that the cyberspace has become an integral part of modern information society, where vast amount of information is available in different formats for users across the world. Thus, he noted, fraud, theft and forgery exist online just as they are prevalent in normal daily activity, warning that if users are to benefit fully from the internet, there is need for building confidence in the information infrastructure.
Juwah stressed that cyber threats like malware, cyber harassment, child molestation, spoofing, phishing, pharming, viruses, trojans, worms, pornography and spyware are becoming extremely sophisticated such that it requires users to be extremely careful in navigating the online environment. Furthermore, he warned that the internet has long ceased being the exclusive domain of the technically savvy, but now involves all kinds of users including novices, children, and questionable characters. The cost of systems repairs and the global economic loss resulting from cyber crime runs into billions of naira, the NCC boss declared.
“The internet is a borderless communication tool and consequently, any solution to secure it must involve global collaboration. Loopholes in legal framework are being exploited by perpetuators as harmonization between existing laws across nations is far from being satisfactory”, he observed.
Taking the NCC helmsman’s observations in perspective, it becomes easy to understand that it is possible for an internet user with questionable motives to wreak substantial damage across the globe in a split second. Through viral attacks, automated systems can be shut down or rendered inoperative at the whims and caprices of an unseen enemy.
In other to proactively tackle cybercrimes in line with global regulatory best practices, Juwah said the NCC created the department of New Media and Information Strategy, about three years ago. This department is responsible for all issues of information security and capacity building in information technology through the accelerated digital awareness programme for tertiary institutions, ADAPTI. This commission was fully involved in the formulation of the national cyber security bill and other similar initiatives, coordinated by the office of the National Security Adviser.
In view of this, the NCC boss stressed the need for collaborative efforts by relevant government agencies, specifically towards the implementation of the Domain Name System Security Extension (DNSSEC) on the top level Domain Name System in order to address identified vulnerabilities of the DNS system.
According to him, DNSSEC can help to protect browsers from redirection to fraudulent websites through effective integrity and authenticity checks on DNS protocols. He stressed that one of the fundamental challenges of cyber security is to effectively educate the end users on the potential dangers inherent in the cyberspace.
As Nigeria approaches the critical juncture of broadband connectivity, the importance of cyber security requires even greater attention. Cyber criminals can easily take advantage of the greater bandwidth and more efficiency to upgrade their nefarious activities. It is therefore necessary for the NCC, EFCC and the office of the National Security Adviser to collaborate more towards proactively managing the likely quantum leap in yahoo-yahoo activity that could result.