New Telegraph

Cyber-attacks: Bracing for next pandemic

As technology advances, cybercriminals are also getting smarter, thus experts believe that 100 per cent prevention of an attack is becoming almost impossible. However, they have put forward measures that individuals and businesses could put in place to mitigate the effects of cyber-attacks, which they warn could be the next pandemic, SAMSON AKINTARO reports

With the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, many businesses and individuals, who were hitherto confined to the traditional ways of doing business, were forced to embrace the internet. Today, the internet has become the enabler of virtually everything. From education to health, to financial transactions, among others, every activity is now being conducted in cyberspace, even as the internet culture grows across demographics. And with this development comes the snag of cybercriminals, who have become the unavoidable companions of cyberspace. Businesses and individuals continue to lose their fortunes to cybercriminals on daily basis and there is no stopping. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, global cybercrime costs are expected to grow by 15 per cent over the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015. To survive the rising onslaughts on the internet, cyber security experts, at a one-day training for journalists in Lagos, said mitigating measures are key. According to them, 100 per cent prevention of attacks may no longer be possible, but with proactive actions, losses could be prevented whenever cybercriminals strike.

Proactive measures

Cybersecurity experts under the aegis of the Committee of Chief Information Security Officer of Nigerian Financial Institution (CCISONFI), who spoke at a one-day cybersecurity training for ICT journalists, said cybersecurity threats and attacks will continue to increase as more people embrace the internet. They, however, noted that while prevention of attacks is becoming almost impossible, measures can be put in place to mitigate the effects of any attack. Speaking at the training organised by the Cybersafe Foundation, in partnership with CCISONFI, the Group Chief Information Security Officer, Access Bank, Favour Femi- Oyewole, warned that cyber-attacks would be the next post-COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it is critical for businesses and people to begin building resilience and backups for their systems, platforms and apps. She urged organisations to check their ability to bounce back should they suffer an attack. “If anything happens to you, how quickly can you bounce back? Have you checked your resilience, do you have a backup,” she asked. According to her, integrity, confidentiality, and availability of a good cyber security system must be put in place by organisations as part of their cybersecurity strategies. Femi-Oyewole added: “You need to put necessary measures in place to quickly detect any breaches and remedy. Vulnerability is any flaw or weakness that can be exploited. There should be countermeasures in place to prevent, minimise or report any breaches in time so that corrective measures can be taken up immediately.” Human beings, she said, are the most essential and first line of defense against cyber-attacks, and they should guarantee that their systems and media platforms are not left unprotected.

Need for awareness

In his presentation, the Chief Information and Security Officer, GTco Plc, Bharat Soni, said organisations should work to mitigate cyber security challenges such as insider fraud, business email compromises, ransomware and phishing. He explained that cyber threats and assaults have increased due to technological advancements, social-economic considerations, and insufficient criminal justice. Soni listed the most recent cyber security breaches as Twitter compromise 2020, Colonial Ransomware Attack 2021 and Cyber Breach of an Undisclosed Nigerian bank 2021. According to him, social media has become a challenge to reporting cyber incidents as many people do not check the authenticity of the news posted on these social media platforms, adding that this is why media collaboration is critical to cybersecurity awareness. Also, the CCISONFI Chairman and the Chief Information Security Officer, Stanbic IBTC, Igboa Abumere, noted there is a need for awareness despite the cybersecurity regulations in the banking sector. He said: “We are highly regu-lated, but we still need to know how to protect ourselves.” In his presentation at the training, the co-Founder, Digital Encode Limited, Dr. Peter Adewale Obadare, enjoined ICT journalists to equip themselves with relevant knowledge in the cybersecurity space. Obadare said this will empower journalists to inform the public with accurate and factual cybersecurity information in their reportage. He cautioned that some major journalists and news reporters possess and convey extremely sensitive information that could create huge impacts across cyberspace, especially when they are unverified claims. He said that journalists are also never safe from being attacked by malicious bodies looking to either steal their sensitive information. According to Obadare, “ignoring online privacy and cybersecurity is a luxury and a risk that journalists cannot afford. Doing so threatens their lives, credibility, sources and their entire careers. “Now, journalists must keep their operations airtight, their privacy locked down and their data secured,” he said.

Increasing threats

At another forum, the Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN) warned that cyber threats would continue to increase in Nigeria and globally as more people go online.

President of the association, Mr. Remi Afon, who gave this warning noted that while tech innovation is empowering forces behind booming businesses and growing economies over the world, the increasing integration of digital technologies into almost all aspects of society is also exposing the country to many associated cyber threats. “In the last few months, there has been an astronomical increase in ransomware attacks worldwide and there is no sign that this will reduce in the next foreseeable future. “Ransomware damages are envisaged to cost the world $20 billion by 2021, which is unprecedented as it is 57 times more than what it was in 2015, according to Cybersecurity Ventures,” he said. He added that digital transformation had resulted in rapid technological advances such as cloud adoption, blockchain implementation, use of cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, 5G and data sciences, noting that the increase in the number of connected devices in recent years has resulted in the accumulation of data like never before. “At this rate, we are creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, thus the need for big data analytics. With the pandemic ravaging global economy, adoption of remote working, reliance on IT, the recent acceleration in ransomware attacks, it becomes important to understand the role of cybersecurity in digital transformation. “According to Wikipedia, digital transformation is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology. Cybercrime and cyber-attacks are on the rise in Nigeria while organisations and government are becoming helpless,” he said.

Last line

With the obvious reasons that the prevention of cyber-attacks is not 100 per cent certain, mitigation has become key. And how well the impact of an attack is mitigated depends on the measures put in place before the attack, which is why organisations and individuals must be alert all the time and ensure they observe all security protocols on the internet.

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