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Why Nigerians should be wary of cyber attacks

Nigeria is now experiencing unprecedented and increasing cyber-attacks affecting public agencies, private companies and individuals almost on daily basis, cyber security experts and international data…

Nigeria is now experiencing unprecedented and increasing cyber-attacks affecting public agencies, private companies and individuals almost on daily basis, cyber security experts and international data organisations have said.

Africa’s leading economy has been the main target of cybercriminals for the past two years because many of its businesses had moved online during the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

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Global cybersecurity and digital privacy company, Kaspersky, reports that leading countries in Africa, including Nigeria, have experienced 85 million malware attacks in just six months.

The data showed that South Africa, the most targeted had 32 million attacks, followed by Kenya with 28.3 million, Nigeria with 16.7 million cyber attacks, while Ethiopia had 8 million attacks.

However, Nigeria and Ethiopia have had the highest increase of cyber attacks on the continent compared to the pre-COVID-19 year. Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa recorded an increase of 23 per cent, 20 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, with Kenya being the only country that saw a decrease of 13 per cent.

Nigeria seems to be the most hit. Yet, experts see more attacks on businesses as the movement toward Internet-of-Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, and cloud computing continues to gain momentum. But this also exposes businesses to cyber-attack risks.

However, the cyber security experts said this type of gloomy data should spur responsible, conscious and forward-thinking corporate and large businesses heavily exposed to e-commerce to adopt strategies for mitigating these risks. But small businesses are not left off the ugly trend. Recent findings show that enterprises with less than 200 employees lose an average of $2.5 million each due to cyber threats. Nigerian SMEs inclusive. Sophos Group believes that 86% of Nigerian companies fell prey to cyber attacks last year.

The Director-General, Cybersecurity Challenge Nigeria Initiative (CYSEC NG), Mr Victor Idonor urged Nigerians to be wary of cybersecurity, like every other security challenge and its impacts on the nation and citizenry.

He gave the advice in Abuja at a media briefing on the upcoming 5th National Hackathon awards and cybersecurity conference to be held on May 25 and May 26.

Idonor said that the conference, which targets over 1,000 undergraduates, Infosec professionals and government agencies as participants, has the theme: ‘Emerging Cyberthreats: Landscape and Defence’.

According to him, every internet user must be concerned about cybercrime as everyone was at risk of the new wave of criminals who were preying on innocent and trusting internet users.

“The conference will feature presentations from public and private industry experts on cyber security latest trends and way forward as it relates to the theme of the event. The conference hopes to educate old and new internet users on how to interact and do business safely online.

“Our target is also to ensure that the nation’s internet fraudsters also known as ‘yahoo-yahoo’ are rehabilitated and trained to use their expertise positively to the advantage of the nation and the citizens,” Idonor said.

He said that the event in partnership with the Baze University, Abuja and others would be free for corps members, primary and university students and other students.

Also, an organising partner of the conference and a representative of Baze University, Abuja, Mr Labaran Yunusa, said that cybersecurity was an issue of concern for both the private and public sectors.

He said that the cybersecurity conference would further create a platform for connecting Nigeria’s best and brightest to the cyber security industry. Another organising partner, Mr Andrew Abu, said the conference would bring together stakeholders in the I.T. security industry to deliberate on the most logical way to address the growing cybercrime within and outside Nigeria.

He said that the conference promises to produce the next generation of cybersecurity skillsets as there are lots of underutilized talents in the country.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has also warned that there are possible spillover cyber-attacks against non-primary targets as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mrs Hadiza Umar, Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations of NITDA, in a statement issued in Abuja, said the invasion had increased cyberattacks on businesses and government agencies.

“There is a greater danger for countries doing business in or with these countries’ governments, as well as businesses or countries that apply sanctions or are believed to intervene. In this regard, NITDA’s Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team (CERRT) is urging all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to take extra security precautions.

“They should harden their cyber defences and perform due diligence in identifying indicators of malicious activities that could affect their networks, assets and critical national infrastructure. MDAs are advised to carry out checks for possible vulnerabilities on their systems and implement appropriate remediations,” Umar said.

She added that they should always ensure the software is updated and carry out regular patches on all systems. According to her, they should secure and monitor remote desktop protocol and other risky services and carry out awareness on cyber security best practices to sensitise employees and users of services.

NITDA called on organisations to sign up for NITDA’s free web protection service, which will provide MDAs’ administrators with detailed information about the vulnerability of their web services. (NAN)

Some tips to detect and mitigate cyber risks:

  1. Beware of mysterious email activity

Email phishing is one of the primary ways attackers gain access to sensitive business information by pretending to be a trusted organisation or website. These attempts have been growing in number, making it essential for employees to practice safe email protocol and be careful not to click on online links, open emails, or attachments from unknown sources. It is also advisable to create a culture where all employees refrain from responding or engaging in emails with anonymous sources.

  1. Note unusual password reset request

This is another devious way cybercriminals deploy to gain access to the company’s secure portal. An employee who receives an email requesting a password change or update should immediately report the event to the IT unit. A good security best practice is to ensure that all employees create a strong password for their email.

  1. Report a slower-than-normal network

This kind of episode might seem normal in this part of our world, where strong connectivity is not the usual. However, this could also be a hacking attempt or malware attack. These attempts often result in spikes in network traffic that can reduce internet speed. To mitigate this, inform the IT security department to be on the watch during such situations. Also, inform the internet service provider to ensure the team is on the alert.

  1. Prepare for the worst-case scenario

Despite all these high-alert detection strategies and information to employees, the unplanned can still happen, making it more critical to have a cyber insurance policy that your organisation can fall back on should such an event occur. One of the deliberate actions is to prioritise cyber threat insurance on top of your risk mitigation plan against cyber attacks.

NIPOST’s digital address system

The Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) and the National Population Commission (NPC) have concluded works on a digital address system for the 2023 census.

This was disclosed by the two agencies at a joint press briefing in Abuja.

Speaking at the press briefing, the Chairman of NPC, Nasir Isa Kwarra said the availability of data sets and human capacity has made it imperative for the National Population Commission to deploy resources in partnering with the Nigeria Postal Service to digitally drive the task of creating a workable world standard addressing system.

Kwarra said the National Population Commission has over the years invested resources in Enumeration Area Demarcation whereby geospatial and demographic data have been collected across the country in order to create a sustainable National Geographic Frame that is the backbone for Censuses and Surveys in Nigeria.

“This laudable project being a prerequisite for the forthcoming census has come to an and with the just concluded EAD updating phase 18”, the NPC chairman.

In his address, the Post Master General of the Federation, Dr Ismail Adebayo Adewusi said they would ensure a seamless roll-out of a digitised Postcode for Nigeria and to the benefit of her citizens.

“Whereas NIPOST introduced a Postcode system in 1986 as part of efforts to enhance mail collection, processing, distribution and delivery, the present effort is aimed at transitioning the system to a digital platform to create more efficiency and functionality”, Adewusi said.

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