Pantami calls for extra vigilance as cybercriminals exploit COVID-19

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Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has called for extra vigilance against online fraud as cybercriminals exploit COVID-19 to prey on unwary internet users.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly transformed how we interact as individuals.  In particular, there has been an appreciable migration of several meetings, lectures and other form of interactions to online platforms,” a statement by the ministry in Abuja noted as the week ends.

Pantami noted that the implicit requirement of social distancing has increased the adoption of online platforms and e-payment systems.  “This, no doubt, is a positive development that will support our implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria. However, this migration to home-based unsecure digital platforms, often with outdated security systems, can make users more vulnerable to cyberattacks,” the minister warned in the statement issued by his Technical Assistant (Information Technology), Dr Femi Adeluyi.

According to the minister “Our cybersecurity teams have intercepted following cases, amongst others:

  1. Phishing attacks aimed at infecting systems or extracting sensitive information;
  2. Campaigns that defraud citizens by offering essential products and services at suspicious prices;
  3. Fake news and misinformation aimed at spreading panic, creating instability and promoting distrust; and
  4. Video-teleconferencing (VTC) hijacking (also called “Zoom-bombing”).

He, therefore, urged Nigerians to be extra-cautious and reinforce security measures while interacting online, especially when banking online. It is important to observe basic cyberspace rules such as:

  1. Ignoring suspicious online offers;
  2. Being circumspect in sharing VTC details
  3. Using complex passwords;
  4. Keeping software up to date; and
  5. Refraining from sharing unverified information.  

He assured that “the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is committed to keeping Nigerians safe online.  To this end, the Ministry and its parastatals will issue regular cybersecurity advisories.”

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