Zeenat O. Sambo
Zeenat O. Sambo

Towards a Reformative Approach for Enhancing Cybersecurity

TECHDIGEST – Technological advancement has led the world to a whole new level. Cybercrime has also become more sophisticated and taken a worrisome dimension under the new normal.

Internet crime range from romance scams to email compromised fraud, identity theft, impersonation, and generating fake business transactions that cost millions of Naira.

According to the United Nations, Cybercrime is any criminal activity that uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to commit crimes or where a computer or computer network is the object of the cybercriminal.

Cybercrime can take the form of fraudulent emails, identity theft, harassment, spamming, or ATM spoofing. Every year, over $500 million is lost by businesses and individuals in Nigeria due to cybercrime.

Cyber fraud, locally known as Yahoo-Yahoo in Nigeria has undergone an evolution in recent years. Some of these fraudsters seek metaphysical powers from herbalists that they believe can help them hypnotize or control their victims. This group of boys is commonly called ‘Yahoo Plus’ or ‘G-boys’.

Cybercrime, digital racket, computer fraud, and all it is called, has become a raging fire leaving many individuals and organisations at a great loss.

There is hardly a week that goes by without the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) not parading young people over cyber fraud or some of them convicted and sentenced to jail for similar crimes.

Internet crime often results in extreme damages, as it involves the theft of financial resources, intellectual property, or personal information, and it targets senior citizens and the vulnerable (both local and foreign).

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Mostly, Individuals are driven towards cybercrime by unemployment and the desire for quick wealth but that cannot justify it as an activity worth venturing into.

Nigeria’s government, businesses, and the international community have coordinated their efforts to minimize cybercrime by increasing public awareness of cyber fraud, improving personal security, establishing anti-scam centers and so on but still the illicit act is not abating at all.

To most of these criminally-minded individuals, digital manipulation has become a new normal as the word ‘minimize’ is used in the digital space instead of ‘eradicate’.

So, these tech-savvy criminals are always devising novel tricks to commit more to attack the unsuspecting users of online platforms.

However, it is imperative to acknowledge that repentant cybercriminals could be rehabilitated to serve as anti-cybercrime vigilantes and help to fight the menace.

Internet crime is a criminal offense and no one can validate it as a positive impact on society. But when the expression `Yahoo-Yahoo’ has become a trending fashion that is breeding more cybercriminals daily, then the best option is to create an anti-cybercrime hub to fight against all forms of cyber criminality.

Within the first quarter of 2022, the EFCC arrested 402 suspected cyber fraudsters from Lekki, 17 from Benin-City, and still counting across the country. Concerns are rife that in the nearest future, cybercriminals may constitute the largest proportion of inmates serving terms in our correctional centres/facilities.

As strange as it may sound, an individual with low intelligence cannot go into cybercrime. Although the illegal use of technology is deemed criminal and is punishable under the law, such legislation should be amended to use these criminals to fight the scourge.

Many people believe that the best way to catch a criminal is to use a criminal.

The Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS) is constitutionally responsible for ensuring the safe custody of offenders as well as their reformation, rehabilitation, and re-integration. Under Decree No. 9 of 1972, correctional facilities are entrusted with the responsibility to train and educate prisoners to become useful and law-abiding citizens after their release.

In this regard, rehabilitation of inmates through vocational skills has helped a lot of them to become productive, further their education, engage in farming, and other different trades.

If inmates in correctional centres can contribute to the betterment of themselves and society, then digital criminals stand a chance to take a new turn in life for the better.

According to the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, Nigeria loses almost N78 billion ($214 million) every year through cybercrimes.

He also raised concerns over the spate of cyber threats on individuals, businesses, financial institutions, government ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) as well as their affiliates.

With appropriate channels of awareness, these inmates with closure can educate the public on the precautionary measures and other hints that would save people from falling victims to the antics of cybercriminals.

Cybercriminals are already digitally savvy, tech hubs should be introduced in correctional centres. The availability of appropriate facilities and firm supervision will motivate inmates to acquire capacity in emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, robotics, e-learning, and others.

With their level of tech intelligence, they could bring about or develop innovative solutions to counter the activity of cybercriminals.

Within a robust security system in place, rehabilitated cybercriminals would be able to produce programs, design software, code to restrain viruses and malware attacks, and bulletproof hacking.

Furthermore, they can train the public on how to stop hackers from gaining access to social security data, online accounts, bank accounts, or other sensitive data, so that they don’t expose their businesses to cyber threats. This will engage them towards self-development, and contribute to the progress of society as well.

The federal government’s effort in the rehabilitation of inmates is commendable but there is still a lot more to be done. The rehabilitation of repentant/surrendered Boko Haram, bandits-terrorists, and other inmates is a good structure to ensure offenders face proper punishment for their atrocities and still serve the interest of society.

It is difficult but safe to acknowledge that reforming cybercriminals and training them to contribute to the growth of Nigeria’s digital economy would be a turning point for stakeholders and society as a whole.

In the final analysis, NITDA, alongside relevant agencies like EFCC, NCoS, and others should create a central platform for monitoring the rehabilitation of cybercrime inmates. This will ensure that such inmates do not take advantage of the situation to abuse the process and use technology to harm the system.


Zeenat O. Sambo writes in from Abuja


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