re – checking cybercrime in Nigeria.

Just like a saying goes: if you cannot understand what you see, how can ‘the unseen’ be understood.

If the Nigerian Police do not know and cannot do their job as far as daylight crime, armed robbery and terrorism of the common man is concerned, can we talk of the fight against cyber-crime? No.

If the average policeman does not know how to use a computer, cannot create his own email address, can we talk about fighting cyber-crime? No.

If the web-portals of Government agencies, parastatals, Universities, even the EFCC etc, are still being hosted outside Nigerian shores, can we talk about fighting cyber-crime? What of cybercrime-from outside in? Who do we fight against? 

Whoever is sitting on the other side as admin of webportals/servers etc of our government agencies could just be filtering through ‘classified information’ back and forth, thereby increasing his ‘general information’ about Nigeria. Does anyone care? No.

Where are the ISPs that will stand up to the task?

Checking cybercrime in Nigeria

THREE cases of what may rightly be construed as cyber crime in the country has thrown up a critical aspect of the revolution in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the global arena, and, particularly in Nigeria. First, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), a news wire service owned by the Federal Government reviewed its news dissemination procedure in response to an embarrassing and false information that purportedly emanated from it, and which subsequently led to the closure of Channels TV by the authorities.

Second, The Punch newspaper recently had cause to issue a notice of disclaimer to its online readers, following the invasion of its website by some faceless persons who posted unauthorised editorial material there. Next, there were fears that hackers might have invaded the computer system of a leading telecom service provider. Indeed, the police, reportedly picked up three persons for allegedly stealing the password of a mobile phone service provider and defrauding it of airtime worth about N10.5 million. These are serious and alarming developments.

There can be no denying the fact that the quantum leap in ICT has directly triggered corresponding changes, and largely for the better, in virtually all aspects of life. Our country and its people are beneficiaries with the effect that there is not a thing done hitherto that is not, and cannot, for good or ill, be done better and/or faster with the aid of technology. The effect can be seen in virtually every aspect of life, most especially communications, research and electronic and financial transactions. The consequence is that society changes, it may be said without exaggeration, by the minute. But there are challenges as well for which Nigeria appears relatively unprepared.

The flip side of the hugely beneficial ICT revolution is the rise of cyber crime. The widely-known advance fee fraud known here as ‘419’, is largely perpetrated through the internet. In institutions of higher learning, there are regular references to students who are known as “the yahoo boys”, a euphemism for cyber criminals; in corporate Nigeria, there are also regular reports of electronic crimes; the entire country is full of cybercafes with no adequate e-policing infrastructure. The damage to the country’s image and to institutions is imaginable.

Cybercrime, simply defined, is any illegal act committed within a computer network or facilitated by the use of a computer or electronic system. It is committed essentially by ‘hacking’ i.e. gaining unauthorised access to a computer system and it comes in many forms that range from password sniffing, hacking, web cramming, spoofing, which the local GSM company apparently suffered, credit card fraud, identity theft, data kidnapping, through industrial espionage, software piracy that is common in developing countries, to cyberfraud that involves stocks manipulation or fraudulent business deals, computer sabotage, and even cyber-terrorism.

Cybercrime is progressively as sophisticated as modern technology gets. Given its capacity to massively disrupt social, economic and even political order and stability – as exemplified by the recent hoax of a planned resignation by the president of Nigeria – there already exists, for good and understandable reason, an International Convention on Cybercrime agreed to by a number of countries.

Perhaps because Nigeria’s use of ICT is in its infancy, it would appear we have, in this part of the world, embraced the ICT with inadequate, if any at all, safety measures to monitor and police the system and its processes. Attempts to design a legal framework for cybercrime in the last eight years have yielded little result. But this we must put in place if the use of information and communication technology is not to endanger personal, corporate and social well-being, and ultimately turn into a nightmare. It is still so easy in these parts to infiltrate systems, tamper with equipment and clone devices.

Given the exponential rate at which ICT and its use spreads, coupled with the amazing capabilities of our youths to manipulate related devices, our nation cannot be over-prepared on the management of cyber space. Cyber-criminals are increasingly active in Nigeria especially with regard to money and social matters.

In 2004, the Federal Government had set up the Nigeria Cyber Working Group (NCWG), an inter-agency body made up of the National Information Technology Development Agency, law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the private sector, ICT-related professional associations, the private sector and others. The body was mandated to educate the public about cyber crime, liaise with the National Assembly for the formulation of a Cyber Crime Act, provide technical assistance and build consensus on identified challenges, and network with similar groups in other parts of the world. But what has become of this well-intentioned agency?

Now is the time, more than ever to re-invigorate that body, and ensure that it is strengthened with the necessary men and means to monitor, police, and propose legal measures to check crimes committed by electronic means. Because the current laws do not seem to address the problem of cybercrime directly and decisively, (even the EFCC Act 2004 is not specific on it, except, perhaps, in relation to Section 15 on terrorism) Senator Ayo Arise has now presented a bill to the Senate for a law that is specifically targeted at this new type of offence. This is useful.

The activities of cyber criminals are a threat to all honest users of the electronic means of communication and data transfer. We suggest a broad based collaboration between business, government, professional bodies, and with technical assistance from international stakeholders to strategise on the way to successfully check this type of crime. Two, the EFCC, and the Special Anti-Fraud Unit of the Police Force would require more than physical means to combat cybercrime. They will need appropriate electronic devices manned by trained personnel to counter it. Indeed, this should be addressed in the proposed law.

It is difficult to see any obstacle to the passage of the Senator Arise bill. When it becomes law, culprits must be tried without delay and, if found guilty, they should be swiftly visited with condign punishment. To this end, the law should prescribe a time limit for trial.

In the meantime, public enlightenment will also be necessary. Given the somewhat open-ended nature of access to the information superhighway, persons and organisations would have to be more careful, and refrain from using ICT in an unsecured manner. A simple precaution is the need to be careful with the password to systems. What, for example would become of examination results issued by national and international bodies but tampered with and in turn found untrustworthy? Or even financial data that turn out to be false having been altered to achieve sinister ends? Or, imagine an agent of a hostile power hacking into the computer system of the Presidency to gather otherwise restricted correspondence?

source: cybercrime in Nigeria

 

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