The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has urged the implementation of stricter measures to combat the rise of telecommunications-linked financial crimes in Nigeria. The NCC directed telecoms operators to enhance the security architecture of their networks to prevent unauthorized access and protect customers from fraudsters.
During the Second Quarter Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) held in Lagos with the theme “Combating e-Fraud on Telecom Platform: Building Consumer Confidence in the Digital Economy,” Alkasim Abubakar Umar, the Director of Consumer Affairs Bureau at NCC, expressed concern about the increasing incidents of fraud where Nigerians are losing their hard-earned money due to vulnerabilities in telecom platforms.
Umar acknowledged the significant growth of Nigeria’s telecoms sector, which has facilitated easier access to mobile phones and internet connectivity, resulting in a surge of digital transactions. However, he highlighted that this expansion has also created opportunities for criminals to exploit unsuspecting individuals through various forms of electronic fraud.
Reports indicate that Nigerians have lost approximately N12.5 billion to financial crimes related to the telecommunications industry over the past four years. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, Umar emphasized the need to put an immediate stop to these activities. He referenced a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which estimated global losses of $600 billion to cybercrime annually, a significant increase from a 2014 study that reported losses of around $445 billion.
Umar also mentioned a Guardian report from August 3, 2022, which revealed a substantial rise in cybercrime in Africa, with phishing and scams increasing by 438 percent and 174 percent in Kenya and Nigeria, respectively.
The NCC director emphasized that eFraud poses a severe threat to society as it undermines trust and confidence in digital platforms, hampers economic growth, and adversely affects citizens’ lives. As the regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the telecommunications industry, the NCC recognizes its duty to safeguard consumer interests and protect the integrity of the digital ecosystem.
During his keynote address, Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, expressed concern about the growing menace of eFraud, which encompasses various malicious activities conducted through electronic means. He highlighted the risks of identity theft, phishing, hacking, and unauthorized access to personal and financial information, emphasizing the need to address these criminal activities to prevent financial losses and protect consumer trust in the digital ecosystem.
Danbatta shared a personal experience of losing $5000 of his legitimate earnings to cybercriminals, underscoring the importance of keeping networks safe for all users. He urged telecoms operators to enhance and fortify their networks with robust security measures to protect consumers. Unsecured networks put the personal data of Nigerians at risk, and the NCC’s equipment policy is aimed at ensuring that telecoms infrastructure does not compromise the security and safety of citizens.
Nkemdilim Uwaje-Begho, the lead presenter at the forum and the CEO of FutureSoft, identified key challenges in combating eFraud, including the evolving threat landscape, increased risks, lack of awareness, limited regulations, and insufficient collaboration. She proposed strategies to mitigate these threats, including building consumer confidence in the digital economy, implementing collaborative policies among regulators, establishing mechanisms for information sharing, fostering public-private partnerships, and leveraging expertise through cross-sector collaborations.
Uwaje-Begho emphasized the importance of international cooperation and information sharing to curb eFraud. Additionally, she advised telecoms operators to implement multi-layered security measures, conduct regular security audits and vulnerability assessments, and ensure timely software upgrades. Collaboration with cybersecurity experts and law enforcement agencies was also encouraged as a means to combat eFraud effectively.