An IT expert, Mr. Ridwan Agboluaje has advised people to avoid making themselves easy targets for online fraud during the period of the lockdown of states across Nigeria. He made this advice while interacting with Tekedia. Here are the excerpt of the interview
Tell us about yourself.
I am Ridwan Agboluaje. I am an IT Expert and Education Advocate who promotes quality education at the grassroot level. I use IT tools to educate and empower youths in my community. I am also a Cyber security expert and I educate people too. I have over 6 years of experience in Information Technology and 3 years in Education Advocacy, Youth Activism, Community Development and Human Rights especially teenagers’ right to education. I seek to make a tangible, notable and enduring impact in Africa, or die trying. I am the Team Lead at Leadon Empowerment Initiative, a social impact not-for-profit organization that provides economically disadvantaged youths with skills and career development opportunities.
Why do you think cyber crimes are becoming common in this period?
In my own perspective, cyber crimes are very common before and during this period because of the trend of this era. We have moved almost everything we used to do physically online. Registration for whatever purposes, transactions and even purchase have all become internet driven. However, the danger becomes heightened at this period of the rave of the moment- COVID 19. Since national and sub national governments of the country are declaring lock downs whether partially or totally and organisations too are demanding their employees to work remotely, internet crimes have also been on the increase. Cyber criminals are looking for ways to steal vital information of people. People become vulnerable when they operate online without paying much attention to cyber security. People who also look for cheap and unbelievable opportunities have the tendency to click on links advertising such and which could lead them into their online security being compromised.
What kinds of cyber threats are people exposed to before now and during this period?
During this period, people are open to all sorts of cyber crimes ranging from identity theft and financial scams. Many people are looking for cheap opportunities to make money for self sustenance during this period. So, online fraudsters steal people’s identity to either source for money from the contacts of the compromised persons or to even withdraw money from their bank accounts. People have reported receiving strange calls asking them for their BVN or other security information about their accounts. The callers usually disguise themselves as bankers. Also, a lot of people have reported their WhatsApp or Facebook accounts being hacked. All these are finance related. Generally, cybercrimes pose a huge threat to private data of individuals, international companies, banks, governments etc. and therefore security breach must be prevented.
Is it possible that people make themselves vulnerable to cyber threats?
Yes, most cyber attacks are caused by human errors, carelessness and ignorance. This is because most internet users have a carefree attitude to the use of the internet. Consequently, they run around trying to resolve their issues after being hacked. Simple personal decisions that people make can put them into trouble online. When users come up with simple and short passwords because they are afraid of forgetting their passwords, they could easily be compromised. Also, when users make use of a single password for all their accounts, they make themselves an easy target for hackers and cyber criminals. People often have the same password for their ATM cards, emails and other platforms where any leak in their information could subject them to distress. Doing that is like a person using a single key to enter a building of eight rooms. The consequences are usually unimaginable because that means the entire house is at risk.
What are your tips for people to be cyber secured at this period and beyond?
Well, my simple advice for people who frequent the internet for all kinds of transactions is that they should develop a cyber security mindset. They should make efforts to ensure that they are protected while online. Such a mindset would save them from being compromised. With the mindset, they are sure to play safe online. They should as well be cautious of opening attachments and clicking on links especially from strange sources. Apart from this, there are six tips that I would also share with people.
One, they should make an attempt to use strong passwords and maintain different password and username combinations for their different accounts. Weak passwords could easily be cracked using certain attacking methods. Two, people should keep their social networking profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube private. They should check security settings every now and then. Most importantly, people are advised to be careful of the kind of information they put online. The Internet of Things keeps records of whatever information is put on social media.
Three, many people are not aware that their mobile devices are vulnerable. They could be targeted for malicious software such as computer viruses and hackers. To prevent this, people are advised to install anti-virus software and use a secured lock screen. They should avoid mobile applications from unknown sources and check how applications on their phones use their personal data such as pictures or contacts.
Four, it is advisable for people to protect their personal data by encrypting their sensitive files such as financial records and tax returns Passwords to their ATMs should not be released to people who they do not trust. Added to this is the fact that people must learn to protect their identity online. In fact, it is better to be too cautious than not being cautious enough. Personal IDs such as name, address, phone number and financial information should not be given indiscriminately online. People are to ensure that they make online purchases using secure platforms.
Lastly, personal computers should be updated regularly with latest patches and updates. This blocks attackers from taking undue advantage of software vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit. Devices should not be programmed to automatically connect to Wi-Fi. People must verify important details of any public Wi-Fi hotspot to ensure it is not set up to steal information. Above all, developing a cyber security mindset will guard a person’s online footprints against theft and financial scams during this period or beyond.
Thank you for your time
It is my pleasure.