Despite the applaudable evolution of technology across the world, the negativities that come with it cannot be ignored.
“The technology that has brought us closer together and supports our neighbourhoods can be used against us. And for too long, the world has been reactive to the threat of cybersecurity. We need to be forward-leaning in fortifying our cyber defences and protecting services on which we rely, setting aggressive and achievable goals in pursuit of a more secure world, ” said Mary Beth Leonard, the US Ambassador to Nigeria.
Since the development of the internet, cybersecurity has become an issue of great concern, hence the coming together of great minds to raise awareness and address the country’s vulnerability, putting forward coordinated and sustainable solutions to address this problem.
At the virtual American Business Council (Nigeria) Cybersecurity Conference held recently, representatives of governments, the private sector, influencers, civil society, and academia came together to discuss the intricate issue.
The programme was organised in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, among other private sector partners.
The coronavirus pandemic which forced an increase in the percentage of work done in cyberspace caused a huge shift. “In Nigeria alone, mobile internet users grew from 68.5 million in 2019 to 85.26 million in 2020.
This increase in internet users inevitably brought with it an increase in cybercrime,” Mr Dipo Faulkner, president of the American Business Council (Nigeria), pointed out.
Nigeria, ranked number 16 out of the top 20 international countries affected by cybercrime on the FBI’s internet crime report published 2020, shows that urgent attention needs to be directed to the sector.
In a bid to tackle this growing problem, Faulkner who doubles as the CEO of IBM West Africa, said the American Business Council has developed local talents to create innovative solutions to cybersecurity challenges in a cyber hackathon that commenced in August 2021. Among other initiatives that have been put in place, attention is being pushed to the sector.
In his keynote address titled:
“The Importance of Cybersecurity in Promoting the Growth of Nigeria’s Digital Economy”,
Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, PhD, the minister of Communications and Digital Economy (Nigeria), shared some of the strategies adopted by the Nigerian government on keep the ecosystem battle ready for cyber-war.
He also demonstrated the importance of cybersecurity in developing a sustainable digital economy and he discussed the role of all stakeholders in promoting cybersecurity.
Pantami noted the growing impact of cybercrime across the globe, especially with a large percentage of engagements that have been moved to online platforms as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, Cyber-attacks are growing at a rapid rate with more malware being launched than ever before.
According to the Chief Technologist – Security and Privacy for Personal Systems for HP, “A new piece of malware is released every day within 4.2 seconds. One of the problems that Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) face is how to combat the sheer volume of malware bombarding us.”
Furthermore, the Keynote Speaker stated that the resulting damages of cyber-attacks are not only increasing, but are unfortunately projected to cost the loss of approximately $5.2 trillion across the globe by 2023, according to Accenture.
This is over 35% of the GDP of China, 137% the GDP of Germany or over 173% to GDP of the entire African continent.
In fact the loss is expected to reach $10.5 trillion in 2025 and will make such a “cyber losses” economy to be the third largest economy, after the United States and China.
The Minister also outlined the efforts of the Federal Government towards improving cybersecurity in Nigeria.
Some of these include the implementation of relevant policies, including the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria and the National Cybersecurity Policy and Strategy.
He also emphasized the importance of capacity building and how the government has embarked on efforts to build the capacity of Nigerians in the area of cybersecurity.
This is in addition to the promotion of sectoral Computer Emergency Readiness & Response Teams (CERRTs) and the focus on Data and Privacy Protection.
Interestingly, a CyberSecurity Act was enacted in Ghana last year. The Act seeks to establish the cyber-security authority to protect the critical infrastructure of Ghana and also regulate cyber-security activities across the country.
Its implementation plan includes sustainable funding, regulatory intervention, workforce development. All these are to ensure the criminal justice sector is up to the response to cyber-crime and also international co-operation.
Recently, the USTDA supported several activities focused specifically on cyber-security in Kenya and South Africa.
“We’d like to do more in Nigeria and Ghana as well. All infrastructure developments should incorporate cyber-security considerations early on, it can’t be an afterthought. We have to be proactive and not reactive,” Jilian Forester of USTDA said.
“We are constantly working to improve how we structure our assistance in emerging markets where we’re active to ensure that feasibility studies and technical assistance are building in cyber-security considerations not only in ICT but other sectors. We are constantly looking for new partners and new ways to support using our tools.”
Speaking on the challenges faced with partnerships to resolve cybersecurity issues, Merith Berry of Amazon pointed out how the company is addressing them:
“We partner closely with the US government as well as other friendly governments as they seek to enforce some of these cyber-security considerations. My focus is raising the state of play for security at an enterprise level, so being able to do not just scalable innovation, but finding a way to derive insight securely and to do that in a way that is deliberate and has a coherent government strategy around the use of that data. We often seek to help governments understand how cloud computing works, and how we can provide a kind of safe environment for enterprises to build them on.”
While Temitope Analusi pointed out the high importance of data in resolving the problem, Dr Bala said a data protection bill will be passed very soon to further prevent data hacks.
Pointing out lessons Nigerians can take away, Jillian said companies and agencies need to check where their risks are, threats that are unique to them and what their priorities are. Then they should develop a plan to address these priorities.
“A risk-based approach isn’t prescriptive. Nigeria can collaborate and work with the NIST and I think they’ll welcome this collaboration.” Speaking further, Jillian points to be considered were highlighted:
- Talking with industries and stakeholders to develop the standards in a framework is very important
- Standards should be complementary and developed in a transparent manner
- For cyber, emphasis on a risk-based approach, meaning that cyber security standards shouldn’t all be very prescriptive and a checklist of 200 plus things to do
With the social dilemma of employment and underemployment, an increasing number of technology devices in the marketplace, and issues like the coronavirus pandemic basically giving more content to cybercriminals, cybercrime will continually be on the increase.
In order to rebuild the digital image of Nigeria within the regulatory framework without stifling innovation and digital exploration, John pointed out that significant attention should be placed on cybercrime. “There are publications that show countries ranked higher than Nigeria in quantity and value of cybercrime who don’t get as much media attention as we do in Nigeria.”
“We need strategies that are geared towards capacity building, more productive human capital through more productive endeavours and we need framework support for startups to enhance that ecosystem. If we are well projected in the global village, they would get to know what we are doing and that would help project our brand. You have to project your brand on productive things,” Jillian concluded.
The American Business Council (Nigeria) cybersecurity conference 2021, in essence, highlighted need for capacity building in the space and show the importance of implementing a cybersecurity framework in Nigeria.