The Federal Government says it is regulating the offering of public Internet services popularly known as Wi-Fi across Nigeria because of national security concerns.
Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Director General/CEO at the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) says the agency will only allow registered, verified and vetted services providers to offer public Wi-Fi services in Nigeria.
The IT regulatory agency says that public Wi-FI providers will be made to comply with provisions of the Public Internet Access (PIA) Regulation, issued pursuant to Section 6 of the NITDA Act 2007.
“The PIA Regulation is a regulatory framework for the provision of internet services in public areas or locations where members of the public have unfettered access. It provides minimum requirements and processes for provisioning of the public internet access service and mandates compliance reporting to ensure the rules are followed in provisioning of this vital and strategic service”, Pantami says.
Pantami seen in photo above says the government agency’s latest intervention stems from concerns over misuse, data protection and national security threats.
NITDA’s plans to place public Wi-Fi under watch comes as several Nigerian and foreign firms have stepped in to offer paid and free public Internet access across major urban centres, educational institutions and other parts of the country.
Pantami says the government agency’s latest intervention stems from concerns over misuse, data protection and national security threats.
“The Agency commends operators who are currently providing this service across Nigeria, as the service increases the use of internet and Information Technology for development of Nigeria. It is, however, pertinent to note that this service can be misused with great detriment to development of Information Technology and national security, in a manner that may be injurious to the citizens” the nation’s IT regulatory chief says in a statement issued by NITDA ahead of the new alert to Nigerian users of public Wi-Fi services.
According to him, “The Federal Government is also concerned about the management and use of the personal information of Nigerians. It is on these considerations that all service providers of public internet service such as IT companies, Restaurants, Hotels and Event Centres are directed to comply with the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation of the NITDA 2019, issued pursuant to Section 6 of the NITDA 2007. Henceforth, only registered, verified and vetted providers can provide public internet access service in Nigeria.”
The NITDA boss warns operators of public Wi-Fi and members of the public to comply with its regulations guiding public Internet services underscoring that violation “is a criminal offence and punishable with a fine, imprisonment or both.”
Pantami cautions Nigerians that the while these services “are generally free and convenient for the public, where personal data is inappropriately or insecurely shared, it may constitute risks to members of the public.”
He also reckons that “where operators are unable to provide adequate security for use of these services, malicious software and other applications can be introduced to harm members of the public or to incur significant economic loss.”
Under the plan, NITDA has alerted Nigerians “to always enquire if providers of free internet access services are duly registered with NITDA and therefore met all minimum requirements to offer free public internet access securely in Nigeria.
“The public is further advised to ensure personal information such as personnel identities, residential addresses, banking details, etc. are not shared over public networks.
“Members of the public are also advised to use up-to-date antivirus software on their laptops and other computing devices before use of such free and public internet access services.”
The IT agency also advises Nigerians to take the underlisted precautions when using public Wi-Fi services across the country:
- Always verify Wi-Fi access point before connection as the possibility exists for criminals to create a fake Wi-Fi-name to lure the public into connecting to it and thereby intercepting ALL activities on the network. Users are therefore advised to always re-confirm when in doubt, the legitimacy of a Wi-Fi name before connecting their devices. Do not connect to an unknown or unrecognised wireless access point.
- Always confirm that a website is secure before carrying out transactions.Website addresses starting with https:// provide secure and encrypted transmission of users’ data. Users are advised to always ensure that websites display “https:” and/or a locked padlock symbol on their browsers before entering personal or financial details while using public internet access points.
- Try Using Virtual Private Network (VPN) enabled browsers. VPN prevents cybercriminals from reading your data by encrypting it as it passes through the network. Where possible, users are advised to download and use VPN software on their web browsers when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network.
- Avoid using special services sites on public internet access services. Some special services that request for users’ identity, passwords or personal information such as social networking sites, online banking services or websites that store your credit card information should be avoided while connected to public internet access points.