Supporting SMEs, Vulnerable Groups with Requisite Skills

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As the world shifts more to online working and service delivery because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Kingdom recently signed an agreement to support Nigerian SMEs and vulnerable groups with requisite cyber safety skills. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports

The UK Government, through its Prosperity Fund Digital Access Programme, has signed a grant agreement with CyberSafe Foundation to carry out the “Safe Digital Community during COVID-19 Project” as part of UK’s cyber risk mitigation support to Nigeria’s COVID-19 response.

The grant agreement which was signed between the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and CyberSafe Foundation on
September 7, 2020, will equip digitally vulnerable groups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with the knowledge and skills required to identify, protect, detect, defend and respond to cyber threats, as the world shifts to more online working and service delivery.
The project was necessitated following the UK’s National Cybersecurity Centre (UK NCSC), United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Certified Information System Auditors (CISA) joint advisory in the rising number of cyber-attacks across the globe.

The advisory found that malicious cyber actors are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic; targeting SMEs and essential services including healthcare organisations with scam and phishing emails.
Cybercriminals also target individuals with COVID-19 themed attacks including relief package scams and impersonation of trusted organisations, resulting in the theft of confidential information and money from victims.

The Safe Digital Community Project which has already kicked off across Nigeria, will directly benefit at least 1,500 SMEs, and upskill nearly 4500 employees in cyber safety essentials. This will enhance cybersecurity resilience and business sustainability.

For the digitally vulnerable groups including people with limited digital experience, the project will help raise their awareness in safe cyber hygiene, enhance their online security and enable a safer digital community

Speaking on the project, the Deputy High Commission in Lagos, Ben Llewellyn-Jones OBE said: “The COVID19 pandemic has forced both individuals and businesses to adapt to using more digital and online ways of working. This development also comes with an increased risk of cyber threats. So keeping the digital community safe has become even more essential.

“We are excited about this project and the impact it will have in keeping Nigerians and Nigerian SMEs safe online. The UK Government stands with Nigeria and will continue to support Nigeria as we collectively deal with this pandemic.”

Reacting to the signed agreement, Head of the UK Government’s Digital Access Programme and Country Lead, Idongesit Udoh said: “This project is designed to achieve two key outcomes; the first is to equip SMEs with the knowledge and skills required to identify, protect, detect, defend, and respond to COVID-19 instigated cyber threats. The second is to increase cyber security awareness for the mass population, with special focus on digitally vulnerable groups and people with limited digital experience.

“This cybersecurity project is one of the key COVID19 response projects demonstrating the UK Government’s continued support for Nigeria and its digital sector, recognising the tech ecosystem’s role in inclusive growth and development. It is also exciting that this grant agreement coincides with the 2020 London Tech Week, which showcases the UK as a global leader in tech.”

Also reacting, The Executive Director and Founder of CyberSafe Foundation, Confidence Staveley said: “I am very excited about this project that is arguably one of Nigeria’s biggest Cyber Security education interventions yet, designed to support the businesses and individuals most digitally vulnerable to cyber-attacks within our community. Unlike big businesses, many SMEs in Nigeria lack the people, processes and technology required to defend against cyberattacks; and consequently are the worst prepared and worst hit.

“This project will support at least 1500 SMEs with free cybersecurity training of their people and also educate over 10million Nigerians on Safe Cyber hygiene best practices in a novel and impactful way. This is a timely and much needed intervention given the increased digital penetration and adverse cyber-crime activity in Nigeria.”

According to the Press and Public Affairs Officer, British Deputy High Commission, Lagos, Ndidiamaka Eze, the Digital Access Programme is a UK Government Prosperity Fund flagship initiative led by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, and Media & Sport (DCMS). The programme covers five countries: Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia.

She said: “The objective of the programme is to catalyse affordable, inclusive, safe and secure digital access for underserved or excluded populations, and to use increased digital inclusion as a basis for a more thriving local tech ecosystem, generating skilled jobs and innovative solutions for local development challenges.

“CyberSafe Foundation is a non-governmental organisation on a mission to facilitate pockets of change that ensure a safer internet for everyone with digital access and resident in Nigeria.”