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Cashless society at Nigeria’s authentication level is like sleeping naked in the open -Akano


As Nigeria forays into cashless society by 2013, experts have said that the country could only be taken seriously if it clears all the bottlenecks that can impinge on global standard practices of the system. Unfortunately, some experts do not believe that some of these bottlenecks could be settled before time, meaning that Nigeria is not ready yet.

Among these category of people is the Vice President WINI group, Mr. Tim Akano, who spoke to Financial Vanguard recently on some of the things needed to take effect before a proper cashless society can be entrenched.

WINI Group is a partnership platform of the best 25 global companies in e-payment, risk management, Information Technology database security and renewable energy.  Its headquarters is in Boston, Massachusetts, with offices in many African countries including, Lagos Nigeria.

WINI Group is known world- wide for partnership with global companies and institutions on e-payment and other digital transactions. What can you say about Nigeria’s preparedness towards a cashless society?

Judging by what is on ground as at today, Nigeria is not fully ready. As far as cashless economy and IT security is concerned, the expenses the banks have made so far are on their networks and not on customers’ awareness. That is the opposite way of preparing for a cashless economy.

As we speak, a great majority of people still don’t know what to do to protect themselves while doing transactions online. That aspect of awareness cannot be ignored or even be treated with levity, if we are to be taken seriously. So for us to be fully ready, we can borrow a leaf from the strategy in South Korea.

When the country started cashless economy, the bulk of money for the first year was spent on education of people. It was not until people were fully educated and empowered with what and what not to do in a cashless economy that the country effectively launched the system.

In Nigeria, yes, the banks are getting ready, but are the people getting ready? The answer is ‘No’ Again, there is also the need to have an integrated platform for identifying Nigerians. This is also very important in the identity management for successful cashless transactions.

If we are serious, we need to push the government on its effort through the National Identity Management Commission to effectively deliver a robust integrated database for identifying Nigerians. However, the role of the Central Bank of Nigeria and all the people that are involved in driving this cashless economy is wonderful and should be appreciated.  We appreciate their courage because, actually, there must be a starting point.

But the country may lose much waiting for all these to be in place before kicking-off the system.

We are quite aware of the numerous benefits derived in a cashless economy. We save money when we go cashless; at least the money used in printing notes will be saved. It will also reduce the cost of transporting money from one place to another, particularly with Bullion Vans.

The most of all the benefits is that it saves life. Incidents of armed robbers attacking and dispossessing people of their cash will greatly reduce if cashless initiative is introduced, because even the robbers would know that people are no longer carrying cash about any more.

When cashless society is implemented the right way, it becomes very impossible for people to exchange cash at government levels. The bribery scandal rocking one of the members of House of Assembly would have been impossible in a proper cashless society.

But having said all these, we will lose much more if we get the implementation wrong. Today, irrespective of the investments the banks have made on the security of their networks, they also need to do more. So are the hotels and Airlines.

Without proper network security deployment, hackers can buy tickets online without paying, make hotel bookings without actually paying, and you can imagine a huge loss that would be to the economy. Cashless society at our level of authentication would look like sleeping naked in the open.

Since you have partnered many institutions that have done this before, what are the areas of intervention that Wini group is bringing to Nigeria  to help address some of the loopholes in the system?

Wini Group is coming with a lot of services for the banks, for the telecoms, for the payment switching firms and the hotels and airline operators. Wini Group, like I earlier said has 25 major partners from America, Europe and Asia. One of them is SafeNet, a leader in world data security.

It will interest you to know that about 80 per cent of world cash transactions today run on our SafeNet technology. The number two value we are bringing to the players is in the area of encryption. This helps to protect your data such that if, at all, by mistake, your data gets compromised, the fellow who has your data cannot interpret it. It is useless to him because it is encrypted so he won’t have access to it.

The third value is in the area of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards, PCI-DSS. All the banks in Nigeria have been mandated by the CBN to be PCI-DSS- compliant and we have one of the biggest names in PCI-DSS compliance in the world that we are partnering with. PCI-DSS is a regulatory requirement, which is the international due process of e-payment.

However, the mistake some banks are making today is to equate PCI-DSS to security. PCI-DSS is not the same as security but just a standard. The 1.5 million MasterCard and Visacard that were compromised globally recently also had PCI-DSS. The due process is not the same thing as security and that is why in WINI Group, we are not just preaching PCI-DSS, we are bringing to the market what we call Secure PCI-DSS.

On the area of authentications, Wini Group has the best technology solution in the world….

Authentication sounds to me like insurance. Does your authentication guarantee insurance on customers in a cashless society?

Of course! We have a solution called Livensure.  This solution helps customers withdraw their money from ATM, without cards but just their mobile phone. It is the antidote to customers’ lukewarm attitude to e-business in the sense that once you use our technology under Livensure, our insurance company in the United Kingdom pays you the full value of your money if anything goes wrong.

It has been used for years and nothing had gone wrong. So if the banks deploy Livenure on their system, the days of customers money missing and banks telling them story is gone. This will also give confidence to most Nigerians, who have not embraced the cashless economy because they fear they would lose their money.

The biggest bank in the UK today, Lloyds bank uses Livensure, so why won’t our banks adopt the same thing for their benefit and the banking customers so that every transaction on their network is secured.

Do you think banks are ready to deploy these technologies and solutions you are talking about, after the investments they’ve made on their networks already?

Oh yes! The banks have realized the need for them to deploy these solutions even though we will continue to engage them. The huge benefits they offer for secure transactions in a cashless society cannot be ignored. However, individual customers also have to help themselves by being security conscious.

For instance, there are other products we have which tracks the mobile devices and Personal Computers like Laptops. Today even our bank information are stored on our mobile devices and if they get lost, we lose not only the devices but the valuable information they contain. So we also have to take measures.

The mobile device solution helps track and monitor the phone if it is stolen. Where the owner could not get the device back, he can, with some applications, damage the phone so it becomes useless to the thief. So is also that of the personal computers. Some of these solutions are affordable for individuals to acquire.

What I am saying is that security should be both for the banks and their customers. On the customer side, for instance, there is need for multi-factor authentication. As customer, therefore, you will need at least two factor authentications. If I want to open my laptop, for instance, it is going to send a password to my phone, I have to PIN in that password before I can open the laptop.

That is one factor authentication. The second factor authentication is that my laptop only recognize my face. The third one is that my laptop only recognizes my voice and finally, even when it is stolen, there is a technology solution that we have that can allow you to remove all the information on the laptop remotely such that information in the laptop is not useful to the person who has stolen it again.

For WINI Group, is it all about selling these products?

No. The whole essence of Wini Group is to add value to the Nigerian economy, especially with regards to the country’s journey towards a cashless society. We came to the conclusion that if Nigerian is to become a force to be reckoned with by 2020, we have to move with the global tide.

The tide today is that globally, things are done using electronic means. In fact, Nigeria is even one of the last few countries that are embracing digital way of doing things. Already, there are some countries in Africa that are far ahead of Nigeria which a lot of people don’t know.

Kenya, for instance, is ahead of Nigerian when it comes to digitalised economy. The advantage of digital economy far outweighs the disadvantages but having said that, let me quickly point out that getting it right is the key word.

Therefore our contribution to getting it right is to share information in our disposal as a way of creating more awareness of the system. So, Wini Group and our sister company, New horizons, in partnership with the Defence military headquarters in Abuja, are organising a world cyber security conference in September, bringing together the topmost people in military, stakeholders in financial institutions and also in international agencies such as International Telecommunication Union and the rest of them, just to increase the awareness. We would also be organizing series of training session with stakeholders in the payment industry on IT security and other aspect of ensuring effectiveness of the transactions.

Information at your disposal, can we have some of them?

They are probably not what you don’t know already but there is need to drum them hard for people to be conscious of the developments. For instance, last week I was in Abuja, some very sensitive government websites were hacked into.

Two weeks ago, also, a governor reported that his phone was cloned and the guy who cloned the phone was using it for dubious means. I have also mentioned before that in march, 2012, about 1.5 million Personal Identity Numbers of credit cards belong to MasterCard and Visa were compromised globally and those cards are being sold at the underground digital market for a price as low as $30 and $50 and when people get this kind of card, they use it to commit a lot of fraud.

So, the advantage of a digital economy is that the cost of operating your economy is reduced but at the same time, everything that is digital can be hacked into. That is the main issue for a digital economy. So, for Wini Group, we decided that we are going to play a prominent role with regards to security payments platforms in digital economy.

When we talk of security, for Wini Group, we are talking about two types of security namely; IT security and physical security. In IT security, every instrument online is vulnerable to compromise. For instance, when you go online to buy anything on any website, the web browser that you use is the most vulnerable tool in your arm and a lot of Nigerians don’t know that.

After you finish transacting your business online, if you don’t have the security awareness, the information you used in getting those things done online is still online. Some people who have the knowable of IT can leverage on that to get your PIN.

Last week, it was reported that there is a school now where people are being trained on hacking. Hacking tools like PIN Finder are free online and it is the tools that people use to hack into your account to take your money out of your account, out of your card and out of anything you have that has monetary value online.

So, for us in the IT security, while we are aware of the benefits inherent in a cashless society, we are also cognizance of the dangers therein and Wini Group is now coming in to fill that gap. Wini Group is a partnership platform with a group of 25 companies globally and they are best companies as far as payment security systems, data base protection and other suchlike are concerned.

Wini Group is divided into about five divisions. We have the security division, the payment division, the risk management division, business solutions division and we have the renewable energy division. But all I have said is on IT security division.

Physical security system would be interesting in the wake of rising terrorist acts in the country today…

Oh yea! There are solutions on physical security solutions now that help the government security agencies in terms of terrorism and the rest of them. Technology has come up with solutions that can even identify the fraudster in the mist of 1000 people.

If you gather 1000 people, technology has advanced to that level to pinpoint the fraudsters. If you gather about 100 people in a banking hall, technology has advanced to that level it can point out a fraudster. These are the solutions that we know as I speak, that can help the country, financial institutions, the insurance companies, mobile payment organizations and that we have now brought them  together  to help Nigeria drive its cashless economy initiative and as one of the indices of making it one of the leading economies by 2020.

Basically, the value Wini Group is bringing to the table is that it understands Africa and it commands respect of partners in Europe, America and Asia. So, we brought all the topmost companies in the world under one group called Wini Group. We have 25 companies that have come together under the umbrella with a view to solving African problems in the areas of security, payment, risk management, business solution and renewable energy.

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