These terms: cyberspace, cybercrime, cyberattacks and cybersecurity are increasingly gaining ground in today’s society. They are readily on the lips of individuals, ranging from small businesses and corporations to governments. The entry of these terms into the common lexicon shows the pervasiveness of the Internet today.
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. It has become evident that 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, cyberspace is the go-to-space for work, play and relaxation.
However, sadly, because people with evil intentions would always seek to take advantage of this space as it contains data of any kind, systems security has become the most important element for all the players in the cyberspace. These so-called evil people launch attacks and commit crimes on the internet, this is done in cyberspace is called cyberattacks or cybercrime. This means more and more individuals and businesses are susceptible to a cyberattack.
To curb this act, the emergence of the digital economy has led to a growing urgency to protect players in cyberspace. The urgent need, therefore, is to protect players in cyberspace and ensure the integrity of information which is the basis of the digital economy.
Today, while it is clear that almost everyone has an idea about cybersecurity, it is still doubtful if anyone is really doing enough to guarantee it. The truth still remains that the threat of cyberattacks is real and this growing threat is with the potential to stall progress or cause the collapse of the digital economy.
This is certainly a multi-faceted challenge. Individuals, businesses and the government have to be prepared against its onslaught. The question, however, is: What sort of damage can result from cyberattacks and cybercrime in general? Hard to tell until its experienced.
Consider the result of a recent survey conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It indicates that “cyberattacks 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.
In Nigeria, where nearly everything is hush-hush, no one can really tell how many companies have faced 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.
To bring it closer, another prevalent form of attack; one that nearly everyone must have heard of, is someone locking a member out of a WhatsApp group and then using his number to scam other members. For this, 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 sensitizing citizens.
It must now consider establishing a department dedicated to coordinating cybersecurity regulations and policies in the country in line with global best practices. 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.
The government and its agencies have the responsibility for policies and regulations to limit incidences of cyberattacks and cybercrime. They should educate the populace about cybersecurity. Cue NITDA. In addition to the government’s efforts, to curtail the menace and eliminate the danger, everyone must be involved. All hands must be on deck because the responsibility belongs to each one of us. The national assembly should look closely at reforming relevant laws and where necessary to explore new laws to effectively manage cyberspace. As a guide, it may want to check out what other countries are doing.
To add to this, organizations that offer and provide services over the internet must install robust cybersecurity solutions. They must spare no expense to ensure the security of transactions on their platforms. Financial and cloud service providers must be particularly involved here. Cybersecurity is not the place to penny pinch or cut expenses to improve profit. Firms must realize that installing multilayer security is systems is no more a luxury but a must-have. Corporations offering cloud services have a particular role to play. They must invest massively in security infrastructure.
For the individual, he/she must also watch out for his personal security. Follow the 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 Wi-Fi.
Countless conversations have been held concerning cybersecurity, it is time for actions to take place and there is absolutely no better time than now to start. 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 cyberattacks and cybercrime.
Elvis Eromosele, a Corporate Communication professional and public affairs analyst writes from Lagos.