CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele
CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele

By Obinna Chima

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), commercial banks and other stakeholders in the electronic payment space, under the aegis of the Nigeria Electronic Fraud Forum (NeFF), have taken proactive measures to prevent ransomware, an emerging global threat to information technology platforms.

Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to an infected computer system in some way, and demands that the user pay a ransom to the malware operators to remove the restriction. Some forms of ransomware systematically encrypt files on the system’s hard drive, which become difficult or impossible to decrypt without paying the ransom for the encryption key, while some may simply lock the system and display messages intended to coax the user into paying.

Speaking on the sidelines of the NeFF meeting for March held in Lagos at the weekend, the Chairman of the body, Mr. Dipo Fatokun, said the report of an incidence of ransomware in Ghana, was an indication that regulators and operators in Nigeria needed to put in place the necessary preventive measures.

Fatokun explained: “In Africa, it is said that it is better to look for a black goat during the day and not at night. If you search for it at night, you might never find it. Ransomware is not a threat in Nigeria for now, but it is just by our border post. It is something that has been reported in Ghana and if it has been reported in Ghana, it means it can happen here.

“So, we don’t want it to happen here and that is why we are organising this forum. Ransomware is nothing but holding the computer system of an organisation to ransom, kidnapping it so to say electronically and demanding that ransom be paid before the system can be released for use. If this happens to any bank in Nigeria, you know the effect it will have on the customers and even the financial system.

“So, because we don’t want it to happen, we are meeting to put in preventing measures that will ensure we do not experience that in the Nigerian banking space.”

According to Fatokun, who is also the Director, Banking and Payment, CBN, top on the list of NeFF agenda in 2016, is the setting up of a dedicated e-Payment and Card Crime Unit in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). This, he said was a request made by the forum when it visited the Inspector General of Police last year. The visit then was led by the Deputy Governor (Operations), CBN, Alhaji Suleiman Barau.

“We requested that the police force, in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, should set up a dedicated unit for e-payment and card crime. Why did we make this request? It was noticed that one of the things that has not been done too well is the apprehension and prosecution of fraudsters. So, we believe that with this unit running in the NPF, the level of prosecution will increase and of course, this would serve as a deterrent to fraudsters.

“We also have other things that we intend to do, such as our collaboration with the EFCC on the use of Nigerian cards abroad and we also intend to collaborate with the FBI in the United States on combating electronic fraud. So, these will help us in reducing further, the spate of electronic fraud in Nigeria,” he explained.