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Flame worm and national software strategy (1)

By Chris Uwaje

Wake-Up, Wake-Up, Wake-Up! The Book of Isaiah and Revelation have said enough on apathy and docility, and there may be nothing more to say? But how long will Nigeria harbour and ignorantly elude the dreaded software catastrophe that has stated and continues to haunt all nations of the world? At last, one of the most complex threats to the emerging information society (IS) ever discovered, is here! Will Africa (Nigeria) sooner or later become the ultimate victim and loser?

Meanwhile, recent revelations from the G8 conference reveals that the world is marching towards a global food scarcity by 2050. At that time, the population of Africa will be equivalent to that of China, but with 60% of world’s arable land. That means that the global food security plan will depend on the arable land in Africa to survive.

Ordinarily, the above can be computed as a golden opportunity for Africa as the food basket of the world, but that may not the case after all. Fact is, outsiders are busy mapping strategies on how to tap into Africa’s solar energy, fisheries, agricultural resource and eventually, e-forcefully control those resources via data and information e-espionage channels.

The world we live in today is best described as a “software first world”. The intensity of funding global software knowledge research points to the fact that the greatest battle ground of mankind this century resides in national software know-how, capability and capacities.

And the Flame has already begun to burn and this Flame type adventure will sooner or later devour unprepared and unprotected nations such as ours. It will be recollected that Stuxnet worm was also a complex computer worm that damaged Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in 2009 and 2010 by causing them to spin out of control.

According to various reliable reports, for at least the past two years, a large, complex piece of malicious software has infected hundreds of computers across the Middle East, stealing victims’ data and spying on their online activities, security researchers have discovered.

The malware, dubbed “Flame” or “Flamer” because the words appear in its code, is unique in its size and the ways it can siphon victims’ personal data. It can monitor computer users by taking screenshots of their e-mail or Instant Messenger conversations.

It can record their audio conversations from an internal microphone or through Skype. And it can use Bluetooth technology to steal data on devices located near the infected computer, Alexander Gostev, a researcher at the Russian computer security firm, Kaspersky Lab, has confirmed.

The National Software Question
The Information Society challenges of the 21st century have just begun. These challenges continue to multiply and increase per nano-second with greater complexities. Therein lies the National Software question for Nigeria.

How prepared is Nigeria within the context of National Software capacities and capabilities? And by extension, is our current ICT development model secured and sustainable with a gross deficit of software code warriors? Who will fight the cyber war for Nigeria and Africa in the very near future?

Can we allow and indeed afford to be taken hostage once again — after the unconditional surrender and uncompensated slave trade exploitation? One thing is very clear; 21st Century ICT will take hostages of software-porous nations. The recent encounter between Microsoft and European Union with respect to Anti-trust and Windows palaver is just a tip of the ice berg. Collectively, the world hasn’t seen ‘nothing’ yet with regards to cyber wars.

Gostev said that the Flame malware was designed to “systematically collect information on the operations of certain nation states in the Middle East.” Thus far, the most frequent victims of the malware have been located in Iran, but there have also been victims in Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

He added that Flame’s creators appear to be looking for any kind of intelligence – emails, documents, messages and discussions inside sensitive locations. The creators remain unknown, but the malware appears to be part of a government-led espionage campaign, experts say.” Flame can easily be described as one of the most complex threats ever discovered,” Gostev said.

“It’s big and incredibly sophisticated. It pretty much redefines the notion of cyberwar and cyber-espionage.” There is a fundamental and urgent need to establish an e-Knowledge Commission and Software Technology Committee for the National Assembly for many reasons directly related to the core existence, survivability, national security and global competitiveness of Nigeria.

Above all, the fundamental need to empower Nigerians, the colossal workload and government deliverables obligations to citizens in the Information Technology Domain — which critically interfaces with all human activities – makes it a strategic imperative to establish a Knowledge Commission and Software Committee at the Senate and House of Representative levels.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.