‘Despite Cyber Threats, IT Adoption Increased in 2020’

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By Emma Okonji

The adoption of Information Technology (IT) in Nigeria has continued to surge, despite cyber threats that hit the IT space in 2020, according to the President of Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN), Mr. Remi Afon.

He made the submission recently, while presenting a national cyber threat landscape for 2021.
He said the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic forced an increased dependency on online systems and networks to support remote work.

According to him, “The year saw a continuous increase in the adoption of IT. For instance, significant growths in the numbers of mobile (GSM) and Internet subscribers were recorded. In the same vein, there was increased adoption of crypto-currencies by Nigerians.”

He, however, said the increased adoption of IT in 2020, presents an increased attack surface for cyber-criminals to continue to perpetuate their attacks. He therefore called for a nationwide coordinated effort to thwart cybercriminal activities.

“In reality, the situation in Nigeria was not different from the rest of the world. Globally, cyber-security intelligence reports have revealed that cybercriminals, last year, advanced their capabilities and deployed more sophisticated tools and techniques.

“One of the main factors that transformed the global digital landscape was the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a rise in the use of digital technologies. Private and public establishments were forced to acquire and deploy technologies that would enable them to work remotely, to reduce the impact of the pandemic on their businesses. Many educational institutions adopted online form of teaching as a coping mechanism, to forestall disruption in the delivery of educational services to their students,” Afon said.

While presenting the national cyber threat outlook for 2021, Afon said top cyber threats for 2021 would include: Email-Based Attacks, where emails would used as vector by attackers for propagating other scamming, phishing, and malware attacks; Web Application and Services Attacks, where website defacement will be due to the activities of hacktivists in response to the actions and inactions of the government; Malware deployment by malicious actors against information systems belonging to individuals, organizations, and government.

Others include phishing, identity theft, fake news and hate speech, including Children Targeted Attacks, Hacktivism, Cryptojacking and Cybercriminal Recruitment.

In other to address future cyber-attacks, Afon recommended the publication and implementation of the recently reviewed national cybersecurity policy and strategy documents. He said efforts should be made by the government and corporate entities to improve the security of their IT assets, and that organizations leveraging on IT should update their internal security policies and procedures and adhere to best security practices.

He said President Buhari should as a matter of urgency, assent to the Data Protection Bill 2019 as passed by the National Assembly in May 2019. He said government should provide adequate information on COVID-19 and the linking of SIM cards to NIN, adding that lack of information can easily be exploited by criminal actors to deceive the uninformed. Access to relevant information should be easy and free for citizens.

Afon called for continuous education of citizens on the activities of cybercriminals, using the various media, is crucial, while efforts must be made by parents and guardians to ensure the online safety of their children and wards, respectively.

“It is important for parents and guardians to monitor the activities of and moderate the time spent by their children and wards, respectively, while online, and schools should ensure the technologies such software and hardware they deployed can effectively support learning without compromising the online security of their students,” Afon said.