Data protection and cyber security: A wake-up call to all

Information and communication data has become expensive to both users and operators. It is even more expensive in the dark web where all levels of governments, individuals and organisations’ sensitive information is hacked and sold for great sum without the knowledge of the original owner of the data. AYONI M. AGBABIAKA writes on some of the measures to guide against breach of vital information.

Hacked data
Data stolen or hacked had been used for several reasons ranging from military sabotage, economic gains or sheer destruction of image of the victim. Countries and military formations are not spared in this trend of data breach.
The increasing use of digital technologies is continually exposing sensitive information and critical systems to risks and threats in the cyberspace. Cyber criminals not only try to gain control over infrastructure, they also try to steal personal information, official data and mislead citizens with fake news.
Countries are now becoming more aware of this challenge and are taking cyber security seriously.

Huge damage
Recently at the information assurance workshop co-hosted by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) stated that the boom in digital economy is delicately balanced with equivalent threats that could bring organisations and nations to their knees with colossal damage arising from financial and reputational losses to cyber criminals; hence governments and industries need to enhance their cyber security in the wake of these evolving threats to online activities.
Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, noted that “the information we keep should be kept in confidentiality and the integrity preserved as well as availability of information whenever and whoever that intends to have access to it.”
Growing threats
“This workshop is planned to bring together efforts of all government organisations to combat one of the growing threats to economies, personal and national security globally. Government and industries migrate online and find effective ways of reaching out to citizens and finding efficient ways of carrying out their businesses.
“These activities are majorly dependent on use of data; it’s either data is created, collected, stored or analyzed. “Data is a critical asset to the digital economy as such a critical target for cyber criminals,” he said.
Increasing use of digital technologies
He added that the increasing use of digital technologies is continually exposing sensitive information and critical systems to risks and threats in the cyberspace. “Cyber criminals not only try to gain control over our infrastructure, they also try to steal personal information, official data and mislead citizens with fake news.
“Every day, malicious cyber actors infiltrate computers and accounts of individual citizens, businesses, the military, and all sectors of government and most of which we are not even aware of.
“The growth and potential of the digital economy depends on the trust on the internet and in cyberspace. The digital economy is estimated at 22.5% of the world’s economy and yet has not been fully exploited, digital investments have growth multiplier effect in national GDP, where it increases the national economic output.
Nigerian digital economy accounts for 13.8% of GDP

According to the DG, the Nigerian digital economy is known to account for up to 13.8% of the nation’s GDP. It is therefore obvious that the digital economy is a platform to increase the growth of the national economy.
“Little wonder the federal government in its proactive nature repositioned the Federal Ministry of Communications to tap into this growth possibility with the expansion of its portfolio to cover all activities that would harness the full potential of Nigeria’s digital economy.
“The digital economy leverages on cyberspace, characterized with evolving cyber threats. Thus, cyber security is key to enable the growth and progress of the digital economy.

Stakeholders’ confidence
“Security privacy and trust are critical issues for a thriving digital economy. Government and industries need to employ measures to enlist the trust and confidence of all stakeholders.
“This is one of platforms for ensuring that everybody puts in the required amount of effort and commitment to ensuring trust building and dissuading the negatives of the criminals in a digital economy.
“We have to work together if we are to increase our resilience against malicious cyber risks and threats,” he said.
Cyber criminals work very hard to steal information
Head of cyber security unit, Dr. Wariowei Dimie, state that “We discovered that in public service the world over, cyber criminals are working very hard to steal information because there is value attached to data.  
“Because the value of data is so important, we are putting up this workshop to make sure that whatever data generated and made available in public service is kept safe from hackers.
“We would make sure that certain regulations put in place are adhered to by MDAs, as stated in the circular circulated by the SGF.

A cyber security expert, Dr. Kenneth Okereafor, noted that “the programme was a proposal to government to implement to make our cyber space more secure.
“The reason is because in other climes, it is very easy to detect when attacks are coming in. We are looking at a situation where Nigeria as a country has a framework in place to detect cyber security breaches; beyond that to also respond proactively.
“One of the ways to do that is to have a single coordinating unit. People are not aware of the various exposures that we have in terms of cyber security.”
Constant training and retraining in cyber security
And the only way to do that is to have constant training and retraining in cyber security. Agencies of government need now to take cyber security education and awareness more seriously because of the complexity of the data space that we operate in.
He added that though the cyber security law is in place, it needs to be strengthened.
“To that extent, it is necessary for government to consider having more legal frameworks to backup other areas of cyber security. For information in transit and data in storage or data being processed, each needs adequate protection. We as a country need to define develop and institutionalize frameworks to protect data in each of these areas. 
“We have a lot of frameworks, but we can harmonize them and begin to use them as a people.
“On implementation, there is plan for monitoring and evaluations. Circulars generated by SGF and HOS are usually structured in such a way that compliance can be monitored from the end of the organization and as well as the generating agency,” he said.

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