Cyber-Attacks: The Banana Peels on Nigeria’s Road to Technological Progress, by Shuaib S. Agaka

Cyber-Attacks: The Banana Peels on Nigeria’s Road to Technological Progress, by Shuaib S. Agaka

 

Nigeria’s technological landscape has always been advancing but its vulnerability to cyber attacks is becoming alarming and thus limiting the corresponding optimum productivity.

For example, in March 2023, the federal government made a shocking revelation that not less than 12,988,978 cyberattacks were recorded during the presidential and national assembly elections that was held in February of the same year.

Therefore, in the expansive realm of Nigeria’s digital landscape, the presence of cyber threats poses a significant challenge to the nation’s technological progress as new innovations continue to emerge on a daily basis.

It is gratifying that the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has been playing a pivotal role in addressing this particular problem through awareness campaigns, strategic collaborations, and cybersecurity personnel development.

As part of the Organization’s strategy to curb cyberattacks, NITDA disclosed the need to improve cybersecurity in Nigeria’s digital environment as a matter of utmost importance.

The Director General of the NITDA, Malam Kashifu Abdullahi Inuwa, at a programme on “Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP) 2.0,” revealed that, at this digital age, cybersecurity is not just a technical necessity but a critical foundation for trust and confidence in digital services.

“As the digital landscape evolves, the threats to data security and system integrity grow more sophisticated. Recognising this, our strategic emphasis on cybersecurity aims to build a resilient digital environment where citizens and businesses can operate with confidence.” Kashifu added.

Recent statistics paint a dirty mark of the escalating frequency and sophistication of cyber threats within the country. From ransomware assaults to phishing attacks, the tactics employed by cybercriminals demand a thoughtful response. It has become even more pressing in light of high-profile incidents that have left a lasting impact on businesses, individuals, and the overall digital infrastructure of the country.

According to a report by Kaspersky in June 2023, Nigeria faces the second-highest number of cyberattacks in Africa and ranked 50th globally. According to Kaspersky Security Network, the country was increasingly becoming a focal point for cyber threats.

Similarly, a renowned Fintech Company and digital marketplace in Nigeria, Patricia, was reported to have suffered a cyberattack that led to its loss of about $2 million in 2022.

Over the past two years, the servers of The National Population Commission (NPC), Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and prominent universities in Nigeria have experienced cyber-attacks.

These instances underscore the severity of cyberattacks, emphasizing that addressing them is not a trivial matter. Providing effective and accurate solutions to curb these threats is absolutely essential.

Given that it is widely recognized that cyberattacks exploit the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of their targets. A closer look reveals vulnerabilities deeply embedded in outdated systems, insufficient awareness, and a lack of coordinated efforts. The digital threats we face exploit these weak points, emphasizing the pressing need for a comprehensive evaluation of the nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

One glaring vulnerability in the realm of cybersecurity lies in the continued reliance on outdated systems. Many organizations, including government institutions and educational bodies in Nigeria, still operate on legacy technologies that have become prime targets for cyber adversaries. These outdated systems, often characterized by obsolete software and inadequate security measures, create an open invitation for malicious actors to exploit vulnerabilities.

Also, inadequate awareness further compounds the issue. A significant portion of the population remains unaware of the potential risks and best practices in the digital realm. Cyber threats often capitalize on this lack of understanding, making it crucial to bridge the knowledge gap through comprehensive awareness campaigns and educational initiatives.

In the 21st century, it is quite astonishing to consider that there are still individuals using their surname or date of birth as their banking app password. For some, setting up Two-Factor Authentication is perceived as a cumbersome process.

Moreover, the fragmented nature of efforts to combat cyber threats contributes to our vulnerability. A synchronized, collaborative approach is essential to create a united front against digital adversaries. Institutions, governmental bodies, and cybersecurity experts must work in harmony to fortify our defences and respond effectively to emerging threats.

So, these adversaries need to be thoroughly addressed to reduce the rate at which cyberattacks are happening around the country. Also, NITDA needs to put more effort into their ongoing cybersecurity strategies and can also consider:

Combating this problem requires comprehensive policy frameworks that align with international cybersecurity standards. Frameworks that will serve as guiding principles for both public and private entities, fostering a unified approach to cybersecurity should be enhanced.

NITDA should also focus on enhancing incident response capabilities by deploying advanced technologies that can detect, mitigate, and respond to cyber incidents in real-time. This includes leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning for predictive analysis.

On the other hand, regular assessments of the effectiveness of implemented cybersecurity measures ensure adaptability and responsiveness. Employment of metrics and key performance indicators to evaluate the impact of strategies and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement is imperative.

No doubt, the proactive strategies employed by NITDA underscore the agency’s commitment to creating a resilient and secure digital environment for Nigeria. As the nation stands at the intersection of technological progress and cybersecurity challenges, the collaborative efforts of stakeholders, coupled with forward-thinking strategies, are essential for navigating the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of digital threats.

The journey towards a cyber-secured Nigeria requires a collective commitment, and NITDA stands as a key player in shaping the nation’s digital future.

Shuaib S. Agaka, an NYSC member, writes from PRNigeria Centre Kano.