From PETER OKORE, Umuahia
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) seems to be rising up the challenges associated with cybercrimes after the recent global attention on the country over the activities of some Nigerians, who are using the internet to defraud unsuspecting victims. Recently the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, released about 78 names – most of which are Nigerians – of people who were indicted after four years of careful investigations of cybercrimes, which had cost the victims over a billion dollars.
The NCC as he main regulator of the industry has decided to undertake public enlightenment campaigns to educate the people on the danger of over exposure to the internet. Last week, the NCC raised the alarm over the risk associated with the use of phones and other internet- enabled devices. It has therefore warned users of the Internet to beware of offers of friendship and free gifts made on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms in order not to fall victims to cyber criminals.
The Commission explained at a consumer outreach programme held in Umuahia the Abia state capital that these were the easiest means of accessing vital personal information about consumers, adding that the outreach programme became imperative because of the increase in cybercrime in Nigeria and globally.
Presenting the Lead Paper at the 110th edition of the programme, Mr. Abdulazeez Jide of Consumer Advocacy group, outlined the roles consumers should play to get protected from cyber criminals including to “delete or totally ignore SMS-ing of Phishing messages,” warning that such invitations should not be opened. Jide hinted that many Nigerians have fallen victims to such solicitations and free gifts, thereby losing money, valuables and even lives in the process.
He explained that in most cases such invitations and free gifts were fraudulent and only a means of catching unsuspecting users and making them to part with their valuable items. He also warned consumers against revealing personal and family details on the Internet so as not to give Internet fraudsters access to their bank accounts, credit cards, information about office or school.
He also advised consumers to use trusted anti-viruses, strong passwords as well as effective management of social media settings to ward off Internet poachers. Jide who described the theme of the outreach programme, ‘Mitigating Effects of Cybercrime: Roles of Telecom Consumers,’ as apt, defined cybercrime as “a crime committed using the internet, adding that it is an abuse of the Internet. It is the use of Internet access by some dishonest individuals to carry out criminal, wrongful and illegal activities to harm, defraud or cause psychological discomfort or steal personal information fear to legitimate Internet users.”
He listed the forms of Internet crimes to include, “Phishing scams, which is an attempt by scammers to trick consumers into giving out personal information like bank account numbers, password and credit card numbers through email, text message, phone or social media.” Other forms cybercrime, according to him, are identity theft, child soliciting and abuse, online scams, among others.
In her opening remarks earlier, the NCC director of Consumer Affairs, Mrs. Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, represented by the deputy director, Alhaji Ismail Adedigba, said the outreach was designed to address generating interest in the communication industry. She added that the outreach, which had representatives of the four major telecom companies in attendance, “was chosen to highlight the threats of cybercrime to all users of telecom services and to sensitize the consumers on the role they need to play in order to be protected from the prying eyes of cyber criminals and hackers.”
She explained that though NCC had embarked on initiatives to increase access to the Internet for Nigerians, the commission was aware of activities of dishonest individuals who were bent on using the Internet for illegal activities and therefore organised the programme to keep consumers informed on the risk associated with being online.
Onwuegbuchulam said it was the responsibility of NCC as the telecommunications regulator, to keep consumers informed on the risk associated with the use of phones and other internet enabled devices and called on service providers to demonstrate to consumers measures adopted as safeguard against cybercrime. In his contribution, the deputy director, Consumer Affairs, Alhaji Ismail Adedigba, said the essence of the programme was to educate consumers on cybercrime and what they should do to protect themselves and their businesses when such issues occur.