Mr Remi Afon is President of Cybersecurity Association of Nigeria. He is a solution oriented Cyber Security Specialist with notable success executing broad range of corporate IT initiatives while participating in planning and implementation of information security solutions in direct support of business and government objectives. He spoke with Tony Nwakaegho in this interview during the launch of Stop, Think and Connect initiative programme at the just concluded DigitalSense Forum in Lagos. Excerpts:
What is Cybersecurity Association of Nigeria all about?
Cybersecurity Association of Nigeria is a non-profit organization (CSEAN) made up of Information security professionals, centred on a collective purpose and vision to be a vehicle championing the cause and awareness of Information security best practices, acting as an agent of change to address Cyber Crime phenomena through engaging, government, intellectual minds, business and political leaders. As Cyber Security protagonist we look to hold healthy debate, to expand the audiences’ knowledge, awareness and understanding of the issues around Cyber-crime among others.
We have heard a lot about cyberthreat even when there is a law in place in Nigeria to deal with such crimes, what is your Cyber Security Association of Nigeria doing about this?
I will say that the law is in existence, but it is the implementation that is lacking. So there is a lot to be done by government for the implementation of that law. It is not enough for cybercrime when people commit crime online and they get apprehended, but there are stipulated numbers of years to spend in jail or fine imposed on them. The problem now is that people commit crime online on daily basis but the law enforcement agencies in this country are not equipped enough to apprehend and prosecute this cyber criminals.
As the President of CSEAN what has your body suggested to the government as the way forward to stem this tide?
We have been trying to sensitize the government on the need to equip the law enforcement agencies. There is the need for the government to spend a lot of money in acquiring tools that can be used to track cybercriminals online. As part of our own efforts as an Association, we organized training for the Nigerian Police Force last year on the latest trends in terms of cybercrime as part of our contribution to the government.
The youths in this country are mostly engrossed in cybercrime via their exploration of the internet to siphon peoples’ resources instead using the internet to create and generate wealth legitimately. What is your take on this trend?
It is good that DigitalSENSE Africa Media is organizing this forum on Internet Governance and Cyber Security, and the youths are involved in order to sensitize them. Like you rightly said a lot of Nigerian youths are involved in ‘yahoo yahoo’ internet crime by using that same brain. It still boils down to government, because government needs to come up with a scheme that instead of these youth using their skills in a negative way they should be able to encourage them and bring them in to protect the government and also protect organisations. Other countries like China have done it in the past with a scheme whereby cybercriminals are being converted back to do good things even after committing that offence. American too employed some ex-hackers to protect their government. So government should be able to do that rather than leave them roaming about the streets and committing that crime. They should be able to track them, and give them the orientation so that their skills which they are using to fight people get information to steal money, that kind of skills could be used to protect the government and organisations.
How will unsolicited and malicious information being sent to Individual’s emails in form of spams be checked by CyberSecurity Associations globally?
First of all it will be difficult to stop that, as it will continue to occur. What is very important is awareness, people should be aware and there should be a national awareness security programme which my Association- Cyber Security Association of Nigeria has started with a campaign on that, which we launched today during this DigitalSense Forum programme. We tagged the campaign: “Stop, Think and Connect”. What we are saying is that people should stop, think before they connect online because there are so many dangers online and they have to be very careful and be aware of those dangers. Once people are aware of the danger online even when people send official email to them, they will be able to identify those emails and not be victim of cybercrimes.
What much is Nigeria losing in term of this cybercrime?
Nigeria is losing a lot to cybercrime. The only problem we have is that there is no reporting. I can tell you categorically that the Banks are suffering as they are losing millions of Naira on daily basis. I can also tell you categorically that individuals are equally losing millions of Naira on daily basis if you aggregate it together. I can tell you categorically that even telecommunication firms are being hacked and they are losing money but these are not being reported and as long as they are not being reported we are not going to have the statistics of the lost that is taking place. That is the reason why we are also advocating for the law for reporting so that people will know the significance and the economic implications on hacking in this country.
Do we have a good data base in Nigeria where information could be stored for use?
Obviously, there is a need for data base. In this country we don’t have a source of data base and that is the reason why you see a lot of people gathering and collecting data from different sources. For instance the Nigerian Identity Management Commission (NIMC), INEC, Banks through CBN, Telecommunications companies all collect data. There is no data protection in this country to start with, so when people steal data they just get away with it. There should be a law to protect peoples’ sensitive data such that there will be onus on organizations to protect and make sure that those documents are secured and not stolen. I will give you an example, talking of data protection and lack of data in this country, you look at the issue of criminal records, there is no criminal records in this country so how do you know who is an ex-convict in Nigeria and United Kingdom. If you don’t have data protection that means there is going to be a continuous production of criminals at the helm of our affairs. First and foremost we need data and secondly we need criminal records to be taken care of.
What is your assessment on the programme that DigitalSENSE has put in place that is tailored towards that development of the youth and other issues in the cyber space?
This is a fantastic programme that DigitalSENSE has organized and I must give them kudos for that. But my advice to the organizer is to get more participants in the area of corporate organizations to get involved in this kind of programme because they are also sensitizing people on the benefit of IPV6 which a lot of people don’t even know about. That is quite fantastic thing that they have done.
Is your Association also providing solutions to checkmate whatever is going on in form of cybercrime in Nigeria?
Absolutely, my Association has been doing that by way of advising government and organisations on the control measures they need to put in place, by sensitizing people on what they need to do, as well as providing information to people, government and organisations in terms of dangers online.
You mentioned that ‘Stop, Think and Connect’ is a campaign initiative to create awareness about cybercrime. What awareness impact has been created through it in Nigeria?
We have just launched it here during this programme in Lagos, and that is going to be rolled out in all Universities and Secondary schools. We have launched it in some other States, but this is the first time we are launching it here in Lagos. We will take the campaign to all the Universities and Secondary Schools in Lagos State, and that is how we will spread the message all about.
What is your advice to the students whom you are preparing this campaign for now?
My advice to the students is that they should be productive in whatever they do, for example the students that are here in this programme have learnt a lot of things regarding the opportunities that are there, so they should engage their time productively instead of using it negatively online. They should think of how they can add value to the society, the internet has provided that opportunity for them so they should go ahead and garb that opportunity.