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Cyber Crime and Nigeria’s Cyber Space; The Kenyan Experience

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CEM INSIGHT, ICT | Cyber-Attack is gradually become the new lord of crimes as it appears less risky and more profitable than physically involved crime.

The Kenyan government has been at the mercy of cyber attackers who has shut down access to the eCitizen system for almost a week. The system is responsible for over 5,000 government services.

BBC Africa reports that the government has confirmed that there was a cyber-attack on the eCitizen portal used by the public to access key government services.

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The services affected include basic train-booking systems, payment for electricity, Mobile-money banking services, Issuing of driving licenses, identification cards and national health records.

Others are Passport applications and renewal, issuing of e-visas for foreigners visiting the country, popular mobile-money service M-Pesa to make payments at shops, public transport vehicles, hotels and other platforms also experienced difficulties.

The government was forced to promise visas on arrival for visitors who would have qualified for e-visas due to the challenges with the eCitizen system.

Many Kenyans up to 76 per cent use mobile money, while 67% use the mobile internet to transact as a result of the government’s advocacy for its citizens to embrace cashless transaction.

While many citizens are affected, the government through the Ministry of Information, Communication and Digital Economy has claimed no data had been accessed or lost, although the hackers behind it had claimed to have stolen passport data.

Bringing this home to Nigeria where the CBN is still paddling the wave of a cashless economy to a steady. The naira redesign policy gave us a front-row seat at what may be, if many Nigerians board the CBN’s cashless economy ship. The nation was in a chaos as many couldn’t transact for the number of days the naira redesign policy lasted as the banks couldn’t handle the cashless demands of the populace until the court came to the rescue.

In the first edition of the Executive Roundtable Discuss hosted by Continental Economic Magazine on “Capacity Evaluation of Nigeria Electronic Transfer System” experts at the table revealed that the Nigerian Switches were flooded with more instructions than they could process hence the breakdown at several interval.

Evidently, Nigeria is willing to jump into the digital economy train hence the re-designation of the Ministry of Communication in 2019. The ministry, to digitise the economy created the .ng domain to bring all MDAs into a database. The SIM-NIN linkage is another initiative by the ministry to onboard all citizens in a national database. However with the creation of several registration portals and database integration left in the hands of private agent, it leaves the question of how well the federal government is covering its back-end against cyber-attackers.

Nathaniel Allen, a cyber-security expert from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, told the BBC that “Kenya is probably as well prepared as any government in Africa to respond to such an attack. It has a well developed cyber-security and computer-security emerging response infrastructure. It ranks 51st out of 182 countries on the UN ITU’s Cybersecurity Commitment Index”.

However, he pointed out that the country was badly affected in so many different ways showing “the dangers of becoming dependent on digital technology for critical economic functions without taking cybersecurity seriously”.

“To some extent, countries across Africa are prioritising digital development rather than cyber-security when it is becoming increasingly clear the two need to go hand-in-hand.”

While Nigeria has proven to always implement policies without properly considering its infrastructure, it will be smart to take a learn from the incidence in Kenya to redesign or evaluate its digital economy policy.

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