Cybercrimes in Nigeria and the Security Implication, By Ya’u Mukhtar

With an estimated 3.9 billion users globally, the technological advancement of internet, mainly due to easiness and efficiency cannot be quantified.

However, its application somewhat still poses a security threat to the users, leading to emergence of cybercrimes. In Nigeria, these internet-assisted crimes are perpetrated in forms such as fraudulent electronic mails, pornography, identity theft and spam, social media hijacking, hacking, cyber harassment, cyber terrorism, Automated Teller Machine spoofing, phishing, among others.

A number of factors including unemployment, poverty, quest for wealth, lack of strong cybercrimes legislations and incompetent security on personal devices, among others are the triggers for these crimes in Nigeria. These crimes have inflicted serious damage to our economy, citizens, government and the financial institutions at large.

About N2.37 billion loss was recorded in 2017 by commercial banks in Nigeria, courtesy of electronic fraud and cybercrimes. This amount is meager when compared to the cumulative of US$39 million (N15 billion) that was lost in 2018 by the same institutions. Subsequently, over 17,600 bank customers lost 1.9 billion naira to cyber fraud in 2018, which rises by 55% from the previous year.

In Nigeria, individuals, hackers or connected network of criminals, motivated by financial interest are the major players in the field of cybercrimes. According to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a gang of seven hackers, on March 10, 2018, stole 900 million naira from a single bank via malware in Lagos State. In another incident, 13 suspects believed to be affiliated to an organized cyber-criminals syndicate were also arrested by EFCC operatives on September 2, 2020. Worse still, on April 19, 2021, the same EFCC agents also nabbed 33 suspected internet fraudsters in Abeokuta, Ogun State, after following actionable intelligence on the alleged involvement of the suspects with criminal activities. In another recent development, operatives of the Ilorin Zonal Office of EFCC, arrested 30 suspected Yahoo Boys, who are mostly students.

Cybercriminals have terribly been smearing the image of Nigeria, making it difficult for start-ups and small and medium-scale enterprises to thrive, while discouraging investment in the economy by foreign companies and the corresponding stigmatization of Nigerian nationals in diaspora. For individuals, it results in the loss of hard-earned financial resources, intellectual property or personal confidential information.

Recently, many Nigerians were scammed by foreign and local Ponzi scheme companies towards the end of last year and the beginning of 2021. Notable among them include UWork, MyBonus, Insknation, anf Insme, which took advantage of their investors’ desperation and abject poverty, promising them a quick and huge returns on investment, but ended up defrauding them of a lot of millions.

The latest version of National Security Strategy 2019, a document released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), retired General Babagana Monguno clearly stated that Nigeria uses information technology and networked capabilities in the quest for national development and is thus vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Therefore, cyber threats are inherently asymmetrical with an increasing range of actors engaged in espionage and warfare leading to terrorism which increased security challenges in the country. The four major areas of cyber threats with significant capability to cause considerable damage to the country’s security and economy sectors include: cybercrime, cyber espionage, cyber conflict and cyber terrorism.

During the dark days of the current pandemic, government responses to curb COVID-19 spread have led to emergence of more internet crimes globally. Cyber attackers use COVID -19 as a bait to impersonate brands and mislead employees and customers.

Cybercrime perpetrators took advantage and defrauded countless exposed victims through their heinous acts. The crimes are committed via internet in various forms where COVID-19 themed emails, websites, links, social media and SMS were used to lure cybercitizens to scam them or cause damage with great financial implication.

As documented in the National Security Strategy 2019, Nigeria developed the National Cyber-security Policy and Strategy (NCPS) 2015 in response to increasing cyber-security threats. The NCPS gained traction with the subsequent promulgation of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc.) Act (CPPA) in the same year. The Act provides the comprehensive legal framework for cyber-security as well as the prohibition and punishment for cybercrimes in Nigeria. The act also gives financial institutions the responsibility for combating cybercrimes.

The effect of cybercrimes on organization, the society and the country in general include reducing the competitive edge of organizations, waste of production time and damage to the image of the country. With Nigeria venturing into cashless society, there is need for cybercrimes menace to be minimized if not completely eradicated.

For individuals, simple security tips such as having recognized and updated anti-virus software, avoiding links requiring personal information, using strong passwords and ignoring emails or calls requiring financial details to help unblock card or accounts etc. will help greatly in curbing the spread of cybercrimes.

However, Nigeria’s prevailing economic condition supports the surge in cybercrimes, thus, high unemployment rate and the desire to make quick wealth indulge individuals into committing cybercrimes. This threat can only be eliminated through the strict enforcement of cybercrimes laws, provision of lucrative opportunities in the economy and information sharing among others.

Ya’u Mukhtar writes from Madobi in Kano state. He can be reached via; [email protected], +2348062662147

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