THE Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has called for stricter measures against rising telecommunications-linked financial crimes.
NCC therefore, directed telecoms operators to improve on the security architecture of their networks to block unwarranted access.
The commission decried that on a daily basis, Nigerians are losing their hard-earned money to fraudsters, who are taking advantages of the vulnerabilities on their platforms to defraud them.
In his welcome address at the Second Quarter Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) in Lagos, Thursday, with the theme: “Combating e-Fraud on Telecom Platform: Building Consumer Confidence in the Digital Economy,” NCC Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, Alhaji Alkasim Abubakar Umar, said in recent years, the growth of the telecoms sector in Nigeria has been remarkable with increasing access to mobile phones and Internet connectivity and “we have witnessed a surge in digital transactions, making lives more convenient and efficient.”
Umar however, said this rapid expansion has also opened new avenues for criminals to exploit unsuspecting individuals through various forms of electronic fraud.
According to him, some reports have revealed that Nigerians have lost about N12.5 billion to financial crimes linked to the telecommunications industry in the past four years.
The NCC Director, who said this needs to be stopped immediately, added that the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimated that $600 billion is lost to cybercrime each year, an increase from a 2014 study that put global losses at about $445 billion.
Umar also referenced The Guardian story of August 3, 2022, where it was reported that in Africa, the peril of cybercrimes recorded a massive rise in the first six months of 2022, “with phishing and scams hitting 438 per cent and 174 percent in Kenya and Nigeria, respectively.”
As such, he said eFraud poses a significant threat to the society, as it undermines the trust and confidence in our digital platforms, hampers economic growth, and adversely impacts the lives of our citizens.
He disclosed that as the regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the telecommunications industry, the NCC recognises its duty to safeguard the interests of consumers and protect the integrity of the digital ecosystem.
In his Keynote Address, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who decried the rising menace of eFraud, said it encompasses a wide range of malicious activities carried out via electronic means, including identity theft, phishing, hacking, and unauthorised access to personal and financial information, with the intention to defraud or take advantage of victims. He said these criminal activities might not only cause significant financial losses but also erode consumer trust in the digital ecosystem.
Buttressing how painful the activities of eFraud could be, Danbatta said he recently lost $5000 of his legitimate earnings to cyber criminals, noting that the networks need to be kept safe for all.
He urged the telecoms operators to upgrade and equip their networks with tools that will make them robust and secure from criminal attacks because of consumers.
According to him, an unsecured network put the personal data of Nigerians at risk, stressing that the idea of type approval equipment policy of the NCC was due to the need to ensure that they don’t undermine the security and safety Nigerians.
In her presentation, the lead presenter, Non-Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, FutureSoft, Nkemdilim Uwaje-Begho, said key challenges of eFraud, include evolving threat landscape; increased risk; lack of awareness; lack of collaboration and limited regulations.
Uwaje-Begho said to mitigate the threats, there was need to build consumer confidence in the digital economy; regulators must implement policies that facilitate collaboration; establishment of formal mechanism for information sharing; encouraging public-private partnerships within the telecoms industry as well as cross-sector to leverage expertise.
According to her, international cooperation and information sharing among countries can help curb eFraud; telecoms operators should implement multi-layered security measures; regular security audits, vulnerability assessments and timely software upgrades.
She advised that there should be collaboration with cybersecurity experts and law enforcement agency, saying that this can help curb eFraud.