By Emma Okonji
Security experts have predicted that financial losses to cybercrime may hit $6 trillion globally by 2021, if the ugly trend, which is on the rise, was not nipped in the bud.
The experts who spoke at the 2016 Cybersecurity Awareness Month, organised by the US Mission Nigeria in Lagos last week, raised the alarm that a lot of fraudulent activities are taking place online, where individuals and corporate organisations have been swindled of their financial savings in seconds.
The President, Cybersecurity Experts Association of Nigeria, Mr. Remi Afon, who delivered a paper on: ‘Recognising and Combating Cybercrime’, called for caution while browsing the internet and to avoid clicking on malicious apps that could direct them to unsafe sites.
While making reference to Symantec, Afon said cybercrime has now surpassed illegal drug trafficking as a criminal money-maker, and that people’s identities are stolen every three seconds as a result of cybercrime.
While also quoting Forbes, Afon explained that 89 per cent of breaches had a financial or espionage motive and that cybercrime costs are projected to reach $2 trillion globally by 2019, with the tendency for the damages to reach $6 trillion globally by 2021, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.
Narrowing the threat to Nigeria, Afon said between 2012 – 2014, Nigeria lost N64 billion to cybercrimes, and loses as much as N127 million yearly to cybercrime, according to recent statistics released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, said the number of Nigerians that browse the internet everyday is on the increase and that there was need to raise security awareness on the internet to enable Nigerians browse with caution and avoid falling victims to cyber abuse.
According to Danbatta, Nigeria currently has over 152 million active telecoms subscribers and that out of the number, over 97 million are internet users, as at 2015, and that the number kept growing. He therefore welcomed the move by the US Mission Nigeria to create awareness among internet users in Nigeria.
“The dynamic nature of cyber-terrorism threats demand that our capabilities be continually refined and adapted to provide the most effective response. Education and general public awareness is a key part of this requirement. This is why in addition to collaborations, the NCC is playing a major role in creating awareness and educating the general public on issues of cyber security through sponsorship and support of various awareness campaigns organised by cybersecurity organisations,” Danbatta said.
The Assistant Legal Attaché, US Consulate General, Lagos, Mr. Fritzgerald Kennely, who presented a paper on: ‘Everyday Steps Towards Online Safety,’ said there was need for Nigerians to be proactive and adopt the US security campaign slogan: Stop. Think. Connect.
According to him, it is time for everyone who goes online to always stop a minute to think, before connecting to certain websites while browsing online. “All around the globe we have seen individuals, companies, and governments become the victims of cyberattacks. For this reason, in 2009 President Obama of America, called for an increase in education and dialogue about cybersecurity in the Cyberspace Security Review. As part of this policy review, the Department of Homeland Security created an ongoing Cybersecurity awareness campaign – Stop.Think.Connect,” Kennely said.
He explained that Stop.Think.Connect. is a national public awareness campaign designed to raise awareness of cybersecurity and to be more vigilant about practicing safe online habits.
By joining the Stop.Think.Connect campaign, people will have connections to partners and subject matter experts who are committed to increasing online safety; cybersecurity tips, messaging, articles, and presentations; monthly discussions highlighting current cyber issues and trends.
“Our growing dependence on technology, coupled with the increasing threat of cyber-attacks and risks to our privacy, demands greater security in our online world,” Kennely said, adding that by adopting and joining the Stop.Think.Connect campaign people will better understand the risks that come with using the internet and the importance of practicing safe online behaviour.
He called on Nigerians and the entire globe to see cybersecurity awareness campaign as the responsibility of all.
On her part, Country Manager, Google Nigeria, Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor, called on Nigerians to be more security conscious while online and to avoid malware that could render the entire system of an organisation, useless. She said Google has a safe browser that could prevent malware from infiltrating into a system. Preferring solutions to cyber attacks, the Google boss said Nigerians must learn to use antivirus, anti-malware and must have multiple layer authentication, and above all, people should visit reputable sites and shop only on reputable sites.