The terms cyberspace, cyber crime, cyber attacks and cyber security are increasingly becoming common place. They are on every lip from individuals to small businesses and from corporations to governments.
While cyberspace, according to Wikipedia, refers to the virtual computer world, it is today a conventional means to describe anything and indeed everything associated with the internet and the diverse internet culture. The entry of these terms into the common lexicon shows the pervasiveness of internet today.
So naturally the growing access to mobile internet services and the widespread, interconnected digital technology brings cyberspace within the reach of millions of Nigerians and businesses. Today, the cyberspace is the go-to-space for work, play and relaxation.
Sadly, because evil people would always seek to take advantage of vulnerability in systems security has become the most important element for all the players in the cyberspace. Evil people launch attacks and commit crimes everywhere. When it is done in cyberspace it is called cyber attacks and cyber crime.
With the emergence of the digital economy there is a growing urgency to protect players in cyberspace. This is because more and more individuals and businesses are susceptible to cyber attacks.
The urgent need therefore is to protect players in cyberspace and ensure integrity of information which is the basis of the digital economy.
Today, while it is now clear that everyone knows something about cyber security it is still doubtful if anyone is really doing enough to guarantee it. The threat of cyber attacks is real. It is a growing threat with potential to stall progress or else cause the collapse of the digital economy.
It is a multi-faceted challenge. Individuals, businesses and indeed the government have to be prepared against its onslaught. But what sort of damage can result from cyber attacks and cyber crime in general, someone may?
Consider the result of a recent survey conducted by International Monetary Fund (IMF). It indicates that “cyber attacks are bringing in $100 billion in losses to financial institutions (FIs).” This is due to the fact that FI’s play a vital role in procuring and handling funds.
According to the IMF Staff Modeling Exercise report, “hackers choose FI’s as easy targets due to the fact that they can spread the attack quickly through the interconnected financial system”.
The reference here is to Denial-of-service (DOS) attacks, Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, password attacks and so on.
Of course, in Nigeria, where nearly everything is hush-hush no one can really tell how many companies have face denial of service threat? How many have paid various ransom to access their own files? These figures may not be in the open but they are real nonetheless.
Also take a look at the huge sums associated with cyber fraudsters nabbed by the EFCC recently. Mind boggling figures, that were almost unimaginable a few short years ago.
Another prevalent form of attack, one that nearly everyone must have heard of, is that of locking someone out of a WhatsApp group and then using his number to scam other members. Quick tip: The fastest way to combat this threat is to quickly set up two step authentication code NOW.
One cheery news here is that the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the official government body saddled with the responsibility to develop and regulate information technology in Nigeria, is demonstrating that it is aware of the issues.
The Director-General of the agency, Kasheem Inuwa, noted at a recent forum that “the increasing use of digital technologies is continually exposing sensitive information and critical systems to risks and threats in cyberspace.”
In combating the problem, he revealed that the agency is implementing new regulations, inspecting and examining regulated entities, providing support to its constituents and collaborating with relevant stakeholders and sensitising citizens.
It must now consider establishing a department dedicated to coordinating cyber security regulations and policies in the country in line with global best practice. NITDA cannot afford to be reactive at this time but proactive to help Nigeria stay ahead of the risk.
The menace is real. The danger is close to all. The loss affects many.
To curtail the menace and eliminate the danger, everyone must be involved. All hands must be on deck. The responsibility belongs to each one of us.
Governments and its agencies have the responsibility for policies and regulations to limit incidences of cyber attacks and cyber crime. They should also educate the populace about the cyber security. Cue NITDA.
The national assembly needs to urgently look closely at reforming relevant laws and where necessary explore new laws to effectively manage cyberspace. It may want to check out what other countries are doing.
Organisations that offer and provide services over the internet must install robust cyber security solutions. They must spare no expense to ensure the security of transactions on their platforms. Financial and cloud services providers must be particularly involved here. Cyber security is not the place to penny pinch or cut expense to improve profit. Firms must realize that installing multi layer security is systems is no more a luxury but a must-have.
In addition, firms offering cloud services have a particular role to play. They must invest massively in security infrastructure.
The individual must also watch out for his personal security. For starters, follow basic rules for online security. Principally, people must learn to keep personal information professional and limited, ensure privacy settings stay on and that internet connection is secure. In addition, individuals must learn to choose strong passwords, be careful what and where they download and be wary of sharing private information over free and public wifi.
A lot of talks have gone down concerning cyber security, actions must now follow. There is no better time to start but now. Like never before, information integrity, confidentiality and security must today be sacrosanct.
It is only through eternal vigilance and proactive measures that we can curb incidences of cyber attacks and cyber crime.
Elvis Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst lives in Lagos.