Cyber Security: Do Your Part-#BeCyberSmart

Many Nigerians may not be aware of the significance of the month of October beyond the registered fact that it is the month of our Independence. The 1st day of the month every year is no doubt a day of celebration for most Nigerians, led by the Federal Government, to mark the independence of the country from colonial rule in 1960. However, for citizens of the modern world, October holds another importance.

By Apaokagi, Abdulquadir Abiola

Many Nigerians may not be aware of the significance of the month of October beyond the registered fact that it is the month of our Independence. The 1st day of the month every year is no doubt a day of celebration for most Nigerians, led by the Federal Government, to mark the independence of the country from colonial rule in 1960. However, for citizens of the modern world, October holds another importance.

Over the years, the world has evolved a great deal. Globalization and its attendant effects have turned the world into a global village and citizens of the world have become global citizen, in spite of the political and geographical boundaries carved around us.

Consequently, nothing has made this a more daring reality of our time other than the ‘internet’. Billions of people converge on the internet space every day, every minute to interact for social, political or economic purpose. There is no gain saying that the cyber space has become the largest gathering of human activities. Indeed the Internet has become the largest ‘continent’ of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious gathering in the entire universe. To this end, the security of such important space deserves to be of utmost concern to everyone.

From the 1st October to the end of it, the world is dedicating the month to create awareness and knowledge on Cyber Security. It is tagged the National Cyber Security month.

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in its characteristic manner of proactiveness and pragmatism is organizing a stakeholders’ engagement on the 29th October 2020, where experts on cyber-security are expected to discuss issues relating to cyber security especially during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local and international participants are expected to create awareness on the measures to checkmate activities of criminals on our cyber space given the fact that Nigeria is accelerating towards digital economy.

Digital economy is a 21st century economy that is totally dependent on the internet and cyber space which must, no doubt, be safe and secure for it to thrive. Therefore, NITDA and indeed Nigeria and Nigerians have to do a lot more about creating a hype and far reaching awareness campaign around cyber security and related matters. It is very important to recognize the fact that one of the greatest threats to the achievement of a digital economy is a porous and unsecure cyber space.

The Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy under the energetic and pragmatic minister, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, whom history will record has the champion and driver of Nigeria’s journey towards the digital economy regime under the leadership of President Mohammadu Buhari, GCFR, is coordinating all agencies under it to work in harmony for the realization of this vision for Nigerians. This indeed is a commendable effort by the minister and all heads of the agencies under the ministry especially NITDA, where the minister once served as the Director General.

On several occasions, the minister has affirmed that the National Digital Economic Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari late last year, was aimed at deepening access to digital services for a more efficiently and effectively run economy. The document consists of eight pillars, out of which six address the issue of ‘soft infrastructure’ that was conceptualized to improve the cyber security architecture in the country.

As we journey through the National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) which is a collaborative effort between the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and in conjunction with all public and private partners – including the National Information

Technology Development Agency NITDA- there is every need to ensure that all Nigerian citizens have access to resources they need to stay safe and secure on the internet. This article derives its title from this year’s theme, “Do Your Part #BeCyberSmart”, in a deliberate attempt to encourage individuals and organizations to take proactive steps at enhancing cybersecurity and protect their part of the cyberspace.

The NCSAM has dedicated a theme per week throughout the month of October to carry out its campaign. The first week, starting from Monday, 5th October 2020 will carry the slogan and ash-tag “If You Connect it, Protect It”. This is calling on everyone that connects on the internet to ensure it is secure and well protected. It must be a major concern for everyone not just the government or the regulating agency alone.

The second week will focus on “Securing Devices at Home and Work”. What more can be said about the aptness of this theme that wishes to ensure we all have a safe and secure devices to carry on with our various social, economic and political businesses online unhindered. Other themes includes: “Securing Internet-Connected Devices in Healthcare” and “The Future of Connected Devices” for the third and fourth week respectively. The body calls on everyone to promote their investment by raising cybersecurity awareness.

The deadly COVID-19 pandemic has further reinforce the imperativeness of taking the challenges of cyber security more seriously because there will, no doubt, be more traffic in the cyber space. The ‘New Normal’ as it is being called, makes this year’s awareness campaign on cyber security much more important and there is every need to take advantage of this window by all related public and private institutions.

In an effort to execute her mandate of ‘enhancing national security and law enforcement’, NITDA had also proactively established, long before the advent of COVID-19, the department of Cybersecurity. The department has the responsibility to curtail the myriads of cyber incidences and breaches suffered by multinationals and the nation-state, such that, if allowed, may result in huge financial losses and reputation damages. Not to talk of the cumulative effect on business sustainability and continuity.

The Agency, through effective regulations, standardizes the setting up of cybersecurity structures in MDAs and private sectors. This is gradually trickling down to individual behaviours in knowing and understanding what to avoid or be part of on the cyber space. It educates on how to report and respond when, eventually, an incidence do occur. However, it is quite important to call for effective enforcement of extant laws and to propose further regulations that will encourage innovation, build enterprise and penalize criminality more severely in order to accelerate the promotion of our digital economy regime.

Shortly before the wave of the pandemic hit our shores, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, earlier in February 2020, reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria to strengthen the cybersecurity apparatus in the country. The minister warned the citizen against opening of strange email and usage of pirated software. These are avenues for attacks by cyber criminals.

The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), under the same Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy has also established a ‘Cyber Security Incidence Response Team CSIRT to compliment the efforts by NITDA and the parent ministry in fighting cyber crimes.

In August 2020, NITDA commissioned a digital centre which the honourable minister believes will upgrade cyber security in the country. The digital centre contained, among other things, a Computer Emergency Response and Readiness Centre CERRC and a digital media studio. This means the CERRT will be able to serve as watch-dog of Federal Government of Nigeria to monitor potential cyber attacks on our country.

The Director General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, made a strong remark during a stakeholder’s engagement on cyber security shortly after his assumption of duty last year, alluding to the urgent need to change the perception of other nations about our country which was becoming famous for world renowned cyber criminals. He called on the citizen to rebuild the confidence of investors in our country. This further entrenches the power of a save cyber space, not just for digital economy but also for boosting existing economic structure by attracting investors and generating employment.

It must be emphasized that all these efforts and more will have little or no significant impact if all stakeholders failed to raise the level of sensitization, education, information and awareness creation around cyber security. Non-governmental organizations, private individuals and multi-nations should complement the efforts of various government agencies in raising the awareness especially in this dedicated month of October. May I remind us once again of our duty as individuals and collectively to: “Do Your Part #BeCyberSmart”

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