The Federal Government has issued cybersecurity alerts that Nigerians should be “extra-cautious” online as they embrace digital lifestyle following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nigeria’s cybersecurity warning amid fears by the U.S. Government that foreign interests may try to spread online disinformation about the country’s presidential elections holding November 3.
Dr. Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, says Nigerians should embrace what he cites as “healthy practices” as they use the internet to ensure their online privacy and protection.
‘Cybersecurity awareness is imperative’
Nigeria’s internet community has continued to rise with official figures indicating that there are now 149,772,236 internet connections and 82,653,247 broadband connections as of August, this year according to data by the Nigerian Communications Commission
In a message marking Cybersecurity Awareness Month of October, which is dedicated across the world to promote online safety programmes, the Nigerian Ministers says that it has become imperative to ensure that citizen become aware of online safety in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Cybersecurity awareness has become imperative due to the attendant risks that emanate from the appreciable migration of several transactions, meetings, lectures, and other forms of interaction to online and digital platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”, the Minister says.
Especially when it involves sensitive information on the internet, the Minister asks “everyone to be extra-cautious and reinforce security measures while interacting online.”
According to him, cybersecurity awareness is underscored in Pillar #6 (Soft Infrastructure) of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) for a Digital Nigeria that “aims to ensure that Nigerians are secure online.”
Under the pla, the Minister says that parastatals under the purview of the Ministry- NCC, NITDA, NIMC, Galaxy Backbone and NigComSat– have been asked to embark on a nationwide Cybersecurity Awareness Programme. “This 31-day awareness drive, throughout the month of October, will enable Nigerians obtain the knowledge required to embrace the digital economy and its many benefits, while protecting themselves against the tactics of cybercriminals.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the country’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have warned of of the potential threat posed by foreign-backed online journals that spread disinformation regarding the 2020 elections.
According to the U.S., foreign intelligence services have been known to use websites, including pseudo-academic online journals, to disseminate articles with misleading or unsubstantiated information. “Such sites could be employed during the 2020 election season in an attempt to manipulate public opinion, increase societal divisions, cause widespread confusion, discredit the electoral process, and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions.”
According to the U.S., “foreign intelligence services have used online journals, including some with a global reach, to exacerbate disunity and dysfunction in the United States while also misinforming or misleading readers. Foreign governments have used these journals to amplify their disinformation and overt propaganda, and they have used websites, social media, and other online platforms to amplify the journals’ messages and increase their global reach.”
The FBI and CISA further says that “as foreign actors intensify their efforts to influence the outcome of the 2020 U.S. elections, they could use online journals to advance and launder misinformation and disinformation to denigrate or support specific candidates or political parties. Foreign actors could also use online journals to target the U.S. elections by making claims of voter suppression, amplifying reports of real or alleged cyberattacks on election infrastructure, asserting voter or ballot fraud, and spreading other information intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”
To make informed decisions, US recommends that internet users should:
- Seek out information from trustworthy sources, verify who produced the content, and consider their intent.
- Rely on state and local election officials as the authoritative sources of information about how elections are conducted in their jurisdictions.
- Verify through multiple reliable sources any reports about problems in voting or election results, and consider searching for other reliable sources before sharing such information via social media or other avenues.
- Report potential election crimes—such as disinformation about the manner, time, or place of voting—to the FBI.
- If appropriate, make use of in-platform tools offered by social media companies for reporting suspicious posts that appear to be spreading false or inconsistent information about election-related problems or results.