Minister: Cyber-attacks growing at alarming rate

The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, has expressed worry over the growing rate of cyber-attacks across the globe especially in the country.

Pantami said this at the opening of a two-day International Workshop on Cyber-security and Digitalisation, organised by the Africa Centre of Excellence on Technology Enhanced Learning (ACETEL), technology unit of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).

The workshop is being organised by ACETEL in partnership with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and CEA-SMIA.

Represented by Prof. Sahalu Junaidu, the minister said that more malware were being launched on daily basis, more than ever before.

Malware is a software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage or gain unauthorised access to a computer system.

“The resulting damages of cyber-attacks are not only increasingly, but are unfortunately projected to cost the loss of approximately 5.2 trillion dollars across the globe by 2023.

“Cybercrime is one of the challenges resulting from the internet and is a great threat to the global economy.

“Cyber-security ventures expects global cybercrime costs to grow by 15 per cent per year over the next five years, reaching 10.5 trillion dollars annually by 2025, up from 3 trillion dollars in 2015.

“This represents the greatest transfer of economic wealth in history and is one of the greatest transfer risks against the drive for innovation and investment,” he said.

According to Pantami, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa record the largest losses to cybercrimes as at 2017.

The minister quoted a Kenya-based cyber-security IT firm, Serianu, as saying that African economies lost about 3.5 billion dollars to cybercrimes as at 2017.

“In that year, annual losses to cybercrimes were estimated for Nigeria at 649 million dollars, and Kenya at 210 million dollars, while South African Banking, Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), said South Africa lost approximately 157 million dollars”.

Pantami also said that the increase in cybercrimes was due to the outbreak of COVID-19 which inspired a global adoption of digital platforms.

The Vice Chancellor of NOUN, Prof. Olufemi Peters, said time had come for every Nigerian citizen to be digitally enabled to reduce cyber risks as cyber-security was considered to be the cornerstone of successful digital transformation initiatives.

“The Digital Economy Initiative for Africa (DE4A) has advocated that every citizen, company and government in Africa must be digitally enabled by 2030 in support of the African Union’s ‘Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa’.

“This is in recognition that digital technologies present a unique opportunity for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services unimaginable only a decade ago.

“There is no doubt that complex cyber-attack in educational, governmental and industrial settings pose a big threat to smooth growth and efficient business processes.

“Criminals exploit the fact that many industrial machines as well as simple devices (e.g., TVs, smartphones, PCs and servers) are increasingly software-controlled and connected to the Internet.

“Unfortunately, many of these devices lack regular security updates and are very vulnerable; cybercriminals try to gain access to the software of these devices so as to conduct Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks,” Peters said.

He explained that the consequences of a successful cyber-attack can be devastating for companies and businesses as it could lead to bankruptcy.

Also speaking, Prof. Grace Jokthan, the Director, ACETEL, said the workshop could not have some at a better time as Africa and the globe strive to achieve a high level of efficiency on digitalisation.

She urged governments and citizens to be committed to understanding the risk of cyber threats and adhere to cyber security policies.

“We all need to equip ourselves with the needed cyber-security strategies to sustain the on-going digital transformation,” Jokthan said.

The Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, in his keynote address said several organisations were quick to embrace digital transformations without putting adequate cyber-security policies and strategy in place.

Bawa, who was represented by Mr Bello Mohammed, the Director of ICT, EFCC, noted that cyber-security policies had helped a lot of businesses survive cyber-attacks.

He listed online scams, digital extortion, Business Email Compromise (BEC), ransom-ware and botnets, as the most common internet fraud, which had led to huge loss of information and revenue.

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