Our nation was embarrassed yesterday when a group of hackers showed how insecure federal digital infrastructure in Nigeria are. It was just unfortunate that even after the incidence the nation did not react well – some of the sites were compromised for more than 10 hours. It is shameful and we must learn from this experience. As we connect our hospitals, utilities and other key aspects of our economy to the Internet, it is very important that we understand the implications and vulnerabilities insecure systems could pose to our continued competitiveness as a nation.
The boys have woken us up and we hope we learn from this. We need to know that cyberwar is not a war of choice. It will come to you even if you do not want it. Just as computer virus attacks our 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 to develop a coherent strategy for.
The nation must call immediately security experts and think through the processes that enabled the boys to break into the systems and find immediate solutions to avoid such in the future.
It is important to understand that this is not an ICT problem. This is a serious engineering problem that goes beyond the digital bits to the transistors that power the microchips upon which the ICT depends. Nothing is safe; a light bulb in the Presidency can be a listening device, and that Flash USB key our soldiers use on their laptops while connected to our military networks could be the source of intrusion. Linking those power systems to the web for remote monitoring by German vendors could open them to cyber-threats.
People, it is a new world and we must understand these challenges and convene meetings of stakeholders to develop plans immediately. It could be a workshop where we bring our brightest minds on engineering and security and connect them to work with our military. Iran has boasted of having the world’s second-largest cyber-army while China is determined of “winning informationised wars by the mid-21st century”. And Nigeria must prepare and push African Union to develop a Cyber Control Command for Africa or better still develop its own.
We have delivered this message in multiple forms and hope the government will do what is needful. Let us call a national stakeholders meeting of industry, policy and public security experts to ensure our digital presence is secured.