Yes, it is a special type of crime and it is happening in Nigeria. According to the Nigerian Senate, Nigeria has lost about $450 million as a result of 3,500 cyber-related attacks on our information environment and cyberspace.
Senate yesterday stated that Nigeria has lost about $450million to 3, 500 cyber-attacks on its information and communication technology, ICT space, representing over 70 per cent of hacking attempts so far on the technology in the country.
The senate, which relied on revelations from studies to arrive at the amount, expressed worry that the government servers are currently under serious threat.
It lamented that the ICT shortfall in Nigeria is enormous, while its cyberspace is porous and that the system lacks a well-structured and effective approach to cyber-crime control, according to the oversight findings of the Senate Committee on ICT and Cybercrime.
The Senate therefore urged the National Security Adviser, Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd) to alert all security agencies and financial institutions about the current and threatening dimensions of cyber-attacks in the country.
The problem is not that we have lost $450 million, but the very fact that we will keep losing money, as no one has taken this situation up with the urgency that it deserves. This is a war against Nigeria, and the government must understand this and act to secure our digital assets and economic infrastructures.
Cyberwar is not a war of choice. It will come to Nigeria even if the nation does not want it. Just as computer virus attacks computers, this warfare is waged at national level with consequences that can shut down a military control, financial systems, health informatics, and telecommunication networks. It is something that the nation cannot afford to waste time despite our failure to use technology or strong regulation to solve the embarrassment caused by the trivial Nigerian web fraudsters.
What is basically the threat of a cyberwar? It has been proven that people could remotely rewire networks logically and trigger avalanche of problems that can bring a nation’s economy to standstill. They plant logic bombs which on ‘explosion’ brings enormous damages to companies and private citizens. They could penetrate our oil installations, bank servers, electric grids, air-traffic controls, GSM networks, and military commands. We suddenly find out that nothing works in the land and all networks are broken.
This is perhaps the main drawback of computer networks- the ability to wage war through bits and bytes instead of the old fashioned way of firing bullets where the identities of the invaders are known. In cyberwar, the attackers could mask themselves and may even use your rigged networks to attack. It is also important to understand that the world ‘computer’ has since evolved. There are pills, watches, shoes, bags, cellphones that are indeed computers. And most systems are on networks with IPs assigned to them.
In the old warfare, people were trained to become spies or soldiers with enormous risks. But now, all they have to do is use a computer to launch their strikes to vulnerable nations. If we deny the severity of these threats, we will have ourselves to blame. It used to be copies of military notes; now, the digital spies could download an entire library of military strategy.
The cyberwar is real and it is already taking place in the world. The first Web War 1 was fought in Estonia where series of orchestrated attacks on Estonian digital infrastructure forced the government to decouple the nation from Internet. In other words, both government and business websites were brought down. That was followed in Georgia during its brief recent hostility with Russia. In that one, power systems and telecom infrastructures were affected.
It is important to understand that this is not an ICT problem. This is a serious engineering problem that requires the use of advanced mathematical models and analytics in digital offense and defense. It involves IT, electronics, policy and law. For the cyber-battalion, a roadmap to design, develop and implement a national cybersecurity, cyberdefence and cyberwarfare command as cyber-battalion is critical. It will transform the nation with capability to survive the data wars of the 21st century with cyber experts that can use analytics to connect dots and identify security patterns via automated data changing in volume, variety and velocity.
What Nigeria Needs
The world has nuclear non- proliferation treaty, but none exists for cyberwar despite the potential economic and security dangers the latter poses to the world. Accordingly, many nations have started to deploy strategic commands to protect, defend and necessarily retaliate when their systems are attacked through cyber-means. The United States Pentagon has the Cyber Command inside the National Security Agency, the British has a similar unit inside the GCHQ. China, Iran, Russia, Israel, and many other nations have developed cyber-army to protect their economies. Nigeria needs to develop capabilities along these areas:
- Cyber Strategic Deterrence
- Cyber Decisive Response
- A Cyber Combat-Ready Force
And those capabilities must be homegrown and not importation of useless equipment that sees the problem from top-bottom. A homegrown plan is the only hope, as it will be adaptive and organic enough to adjust as the crime strategies evolve, without the constraints from foreign powers and technologies. That is why Nigeria has to invest in developing its cybersecurity sector. Our national IT strategy cannot be complete without a clear roadmap on how we can seed competent local companies in the cybersecurity domain that can help secure our assets.
For all the policies, the solution will come from technology because even if our people do not commit this crime, others can attack us. So, we need to be prepared for whatever, and have that capability through a NGCYBERCOM.
I make a case why Nigeria needs a military cybersecurity and cyberwarfare command (NGCYBERCOM). It will be a unit that drives our military strategy of proactive cyber defense and the use of cyberwarfare as a platform for attack where necessary. It will provide tools as the nation sees the global use of computers and the Internet to conduct warfare in cyberspace as a threat to national security. Globally, Cyberspace technology is emerging as an “instrument of power” in societies, and is becoming more available to a country’s opponents, who may use it to attack, degrade, and disrupt communications and the flow of information. With low barriers to entry, coupled with the anonymous nature of activities in cyberspace, the list of potential adversaries is broad. Nigeria needs to defend its largest state, the Internet, which has more Nigerians in population than either of Lagos or Kano. NYCYBERCOM will do it.