Monguno’s goals for the virtual world

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By Lekan Fatodu

I suppose most people around the world are familiar with the following lines: “The world is now a global village”, “The advent of the internet has broken the barrier of space and time” amongst other enthralling descriptions of this information age.

Indeed, the foregoing has given credence to the existence of “another” world with trappings of human interactions that are similar to what obtains in our physical, everyday life.

Naturally, this reality presents greater challenges to governments across the world particularly in their responsibilities of ensuring the protection of lives and property of citizens.

Undoubtedly, the virtual world of the internet, just as the real world, demands some safety measures to enhance better appreciation of the cyber environment, improve the openness of the space as well as balance security without violating the fundamental rights of any citizen.

Remarkably, the increasing threats to lives and disruption of economic activities by cyber criminals have well positioned cyber security as a national priority. That’s why some advanced societies are not resting in their efforts to tackle cyber crimes within their societies.

Actually, the unrelenting abuse of this otherwise fantastic domain, especially in developing countries like Nigeria, continues to discourage quite a number of people from truly seeing and engaging the world through the latest innovations in information and communications technologies.

Apart from the usual suspects – the hackers, financial criminals and blackmailers to mention a few – terrorists have also been exploiting the vulnerabilities of the digital space to promote their heinous acts of terrorism.

Expectedly, efforts at curbing cyber crimes in our increasingly interconnected world are engendering pragmatic approaches towards solutions from governments globally.

The UK government, for instance, recently made a pledge of £1.9bn to the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is directly responsible for cyber security to deepen the agency’s activities.

In addition, the government has launched a new National Cyber Security Centre to “form the backbone of the UK government’s new national cyber security plan”.

It’s really no surprise that the UK is promptly adjusting to the growing threats of digital crimes. Asides the US, the UK is perhaps one country that stands greater risk of cyber offensive from local and foreign attackers alike. Also, Britain remains a leading global financial hub conducting high volume transactions and managing classified data of governments and big corporations from across the world.

With similar attributes as Britain, Nigeria occupies a significant place in the economy of Africa. She’s been described as the next “big thing” on the continent considering her massive economy, which is rated as the largest on the continent, and the sheer size of her population – over 170 million people.

But along with the burgeoning economy and population size comes the failure in cyber security, the consequences of which are said to have partially contributed to the lack of inclusive growth in the country despite its economic expansion.

It is therefore not out of the ordinary that Nigeria’s new National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd) is targeting the virtual world particularly in respect to national security and the protection of Nigeria’s public and private sector digital assets.

“The protection of activities in our cyberspace has become increasingly important to the security of our great nation

“A report published in 2014 by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, UK, estimated the annual cost of cybercrime to Nigeria at about 0.08 per cent of our GDP, representing about N127 billion,” Monguno said.

As an indication of his readiness to confront cyber threats and strengthen national security, Monguno has constituted a 31-man Cybercrime Advisory Council in line with the provisions of the Cybercrime Act 2015.

It’s indeed worth reiterating that Nigeria needs to urgently address the issue of the appalling vulnerabilities of some of its national infrastructure.

A report showing that over 2,000 websites of both the public and private institutions containing sensitive data were hijacked between 2000 and 2013 portends grave danger to a country with renewed economic drive.

Similarly, it is hoped that the council would give more attention to patterns of pernicious digital operators that can potentially threaten national security.

A situation whereby the private phone numbers of security chiefs of the country including that of the police chief, Solomon Arase, which presumably contains highly sensitive information can be made public by some reckless cyber-user requires close scrutiny.

Even before the private number of Lagos governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was published publicly, the DSS had arrested two suspected cybercriminals who allegedly cloned the number of the governor and almost stole N50million from the state treasury using the cloned governor’s number. It is evident that the number, just as the numbers of other governors that was made public without caution, would be susceptible to a series of unimaginable digital assaults which might compromise national security.

Till now the deadly Boko Haram sect still uses YouTube, the video-sharing platform provided by Google, which has a strong presence in Nigeria, yet there hasn’t been a major close-up on the terrorist group through the digital footprints left on that channel. Ordinarily, that should have been a critical assignment for Nigeria’s dedicated cyber security unit, if such exists.

Therefore, for Monguno and the new council to achieve the desired goal of deepening national security by securing the country’s cyberspace, efforts should be made on aforementioned areas and wider multi-stakeholders’ inputs should be well considered, amongst other strategies.