*organises interagency workshop on cybersecurity
By Evelyn Usman
The Nigerian Army has blamed the violent twist in the # EndSARS protest on what it described as an unethical use of the cyberspace, disclosing that pictures of soldiers circulating on social media as those alleged to have fired shots at protesters at the Lekki Toll gate, Lagos, last month, were those of its personnel fighting insurgents in the North East.
Decrying the impact of the negative use of the cyberspace on the nation, it said it had made the security atmosphere complicated and unpredictable.
General Officer Commanding, GOC 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, Victoria Island, Lagos Major General Godwin Umelo, made the disclosure at a two-day Inter-agency interactive workshop for exercise Crocodile Smile 6, at the 81 Div’s Officers Mess, yesterday.
The workshop themed ‘Cyber Attack as an Emerging Security Threat in Nigeria, the Role of Armed Forces and Security Agencies’, according to him, was a precursor to Excercise Crocodile Smile VI, adding that it became imperative owing to the present security challenges.
In his remark at the end of the presentation of the first paper, titled ‘ Cyber Warfare and Internal Security in Nigeria: An Assessment’, by Dr Olunifesi Suraj, the GOC, noted that as much as the cyberspace was good, its negative aspect was trying to outweigh its positive aspect.
He said:” When it was created, it was created for the purpose of making communication faster and for ease of doing business. Unfortunately, they didn’t take cognizance of the inherent threats that whatever you do, you must involve a countermeasure or create a means of security, and that is why people have dominated it today for mischief.
“Some of these issues came to the fore during the #EndSARS protest, where soldiers that were fighting Boko Haram on gun truck wearing desert camouflage, were shown as being in Lekki, shooting. Fortunate enough, they didn’t know that we don’t wear that type of camouflage outside the North-east.
“Those who spread false information about the shootings at Lekki that led to the destructions of lives and properties will one day account for it in one way or the other”, he said refusing to speak further on the Lekki shooting, saying it was still being investigated.
Continuing, the GOC, said, “people are doing a lot of things with ICT today. You can be in your house, and they will import your picture and superimposed it on a scene of a crime and say you were there. It will take the grace of God for you to state otherwise.
“If you recall, owners of Twitter, Google and Facebook were invited by the American Senate for questioning, which bothers on issues of cybersecurity, in relation to the just concluded American election”.
He stated that the nation had enough policies that could take care of cyber threats but was quick to add that implementation of the policies was the problem, an action he blamed on those supposed to implement it.
He, therefore, called on the need for everyone to ascertain the authenticity of every information and video clips posted on social media before forwarding same, noting that most of them were incidents that happened long ago but were recycled.
He said: ” For instance, there is one message I have been seeing over the years, that, churches were being burnt in Yobe; pray for Christians, they are being killed, it is happening now.
Such messages have been part of the evils of social media causing problems for us as a country, which some people derive joy in doing. And without verifying the authenticity of such a message, people will just begin to distribute them. We must be mindful of what we forward to people if you are not sure of what it is.
“Fighting cybercrime is not the responsibility of the Armed forces alone, everybody has a role to play, whether you are in the military, a civilian or youth, it requires a lot of society approach. If you do not fight it because you are a beneficiary of it today, you may be a victim of it tomorrow”.
The GOC, therefore, expressed hope that at the end of the workshop, the lectures would agitate the minds of participants, with a view to developing novel ideas of tackling the security challenges bedevilling the country.
In his paper presentation, Dr Olunifesi Suraj stated that, as people were becoming more dependent on the internet and its associated technology to facilitate everyday life, the risk of cyber-attack becomes a security concern.
Cyber threats such as cyber terrorism, cyber espionage, cyber theft, Distributed Denial of Service, DDOS against persons, businesses or critical national infrastructure was detrimental to the internal security of a nation, Suraj stated.
To mitigate these vulnerabilities, he said nations were increasingly developing capabilities through cyber operations known as cyber warfare, for offensive and defensive operations in cyberspace, enhanced internal security operations and other capabilities.
As at October 2015, he revealed that over 60 countries were developing cyber weapons and about 49 others buying and deploying off-the-shelf hacking software.
In Nigeria, alone, Surah said, ” the rate of internet users increased from about 200,000 in year 2000 to 122 million users in 2019 signifying high penetration of cyberspace in the country. The rise in the cyber activities however brought about a corresponding increase in cyber threats from 460 cases in 2002 to 2,405 in 2014.
Also, cyber terrorism especially from the Boko Haram terrorists has been targeting military establishments. For instance, in 2012, the Defence Headquarters and Nigerian Navy websites were hacked and defaced by Boko Haram agents.
The cyber-attacks undermined internal and national security in Nigeria.
The cyberattacks have led to a response by the Federal Government of Nigeria with the enactment of Cybercrime Prohibition and Prevention Act, CPPA in 2015. The enactment of the CPPA was followed by the establishment of the Computer Emergency Response Team at the Office of National Security Adviser.
Participants at the two-day workshop included security agents drawn from the Armed Forces, Police, Nigeria Correctional Services, Nigeria Customs and officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA.