Experts Warn against Cyber-risks

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By Emma Okonji

Accounting professionals in Nigeria have been advised to take precautions while operating in the cyberspace in order to avoid transacting with online fraudsters or from divulging sensitive information to hackers who are in search of vulnerable networks to hack into and steal valuable data.

The experts who spoke at a recent webinar, organised by Crown Height Consulting Services, Lexington, USA, in collaboration with Information Security Society of Africa in Nigeria (ISSAN), with the theme: ‘Cyber-security-Impact on the Accounting Professionals,’ highlighted several methods of online hacking and proffered solutions on how to mitigate such attacks.

General Manager, Head of Operations and Technology at EcoBank, Dr. David Isiavwe, who presented the keynote speech, said cyber criminals would always take delight in attacking accounting professionals, including insurance brokers, just to corrupt their financial records in order to gain unauthorised access to the money and sensitive data.

“What hackers do is to deceive those in accounting profession and the financial sector to transfer money to accounts not known to them. He warned accounting professionals to be mindful of insider theft, where hackers use disgruntled staff to get sensitive information from their organisation,” he said.

Isiavwe, who is also the President of ISSAN, said cyber-security exceeded $1 trillion between 2017 and 2020, adding that there is a lot of spend and that there is ample opportunity in cyber space.

Isiavwe quoted recent reports on cyber-security, including the recent cyber report from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, which stated that the minimum cyber-attack was up to 1,000 attacks per day, and that data breaches exposed over 4.1 billion records in the first half of last year, while 14 per cent of malicious email attachments were programmed for attack.

Isiavwe said 48 per cent of data breaches were linked to internal factors and 90 per cent of malware had been delivered through email messages to look harmless. He said US and others top the list of countries that experience more coordinated attacks, but warned that accounting professionals in Nigeria and other organisations that operate in the cyberspace, must thread with caution with transacting online. He advised organisations to be prepared and equipped with cyber-security solutions at all times.

Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Computer Audit Control and Security Associates Ltd, Lagos, Nigeria, Dr. Martin Ikpehai, who delivered the lead paper on the effect of cyber-security on accounting profession, identified some cyber threats in the accounting profession, following the change in audit evidence from manual to digital. He listed some of the threats to include virus dissemination, malware and ransomeware, phishing attacks, email bombing and spamming, Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), Insider threats, among others. He advised that accounting professionals must continually update antivirus on their networks, implement fire walls and basic cybersecurity hygiene.

A legal practitioner and legal adviser to ISSAN, Mr. Obasi Nwabueze, who spoke on the legal aspect of cyber-security and its impact on accounting profession, said the legal side of things has often been neglected, as organisations often see cyber-security as a technology issue. He stressed the need for accounting professionals to be acquainted with the Nigerian Cybercrime Law that has been in existence since 2015 and the need for government to continually update the Cybercrime Law in order to catch up with hackers who are becoming more sophisticated in their attacks on a daily basis.