Kashifu Inuwa CCIE, the Director General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), said that digital economy has created a pathway for emerging technologies, providing opportunities for talented youths in Africa to emerge as global leaders, through harnessing their potentials.
Inuwa said this at the Leaders Without Borders Annual Business Summit and International Honors 2023 in London with the theme: “Business Beyond Borders, Global Partnerships and Sustainable Investments” which is a global event that brings together business leaders, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders from around the world to promote collaboration and innovation in the business work.
The DG recalled that NITDA as a government agency established in 2001 to help Nigerians in the use of Information Technology (IT), which at that time, less than five hundred thousand Nigerians had access to computer and was contributing less than 0.05% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the nation. Today more than one hundred and twenty million Nigerians have access to the internet not just computer. Information and Communications Technology (ICT), is contributing to more than 18.5% to the GDP.
He added that, “The NITDA Act was passed into law 2007 and by 2012 we had the National ICT policy and in 2019 we had the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) which is a major shift in the Agency’s policies. Previous policies are about the use of information Technology while the later digital economy is about the use of ICT in line with the economic activities, simply meaning that technology is not the end but a means to an end”.
“The Agency’s mandates fall around developing the national digital economy ecosystem that includes; developmental regulation on how it can level the playing field for you to start and grow business, intervene in the policies and infrastructures for unserved and underserved communities, and lastly, helping the youth with seed funding to develop a proof of concept and prototype of the ideas”.
“NITDA embarked on the development of many regulatory frameworks for the Information Technology development in government establishments.
The projects are to give rise to digital skills in educational institutions and rural areas and cities, so as to develop human capital and provide universal access to digital services with the aim of creating a knowledge- based economy,” he said.
The DG stated that in addition to making an effort in IT development as well as enhancing the capacity of the citizenry, hundreds of IT Hubs, IT Parks, and community ICT centers were established, furnished and equipped with world class facilities across the states of the federation.
The agency through its strategic relations with techpreneurs, supported start-ups, IT ecosystem builders through Nigeria ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Vision (NIIEV) which has created employment for Nigerian youths.
To ensure Nigeria’s pool of talents were not left behind, the Agency established the National Center for Artificial Intelligence and Robotic (NCAIR), to drive and support research, development, and adoption of emerging technologies in the country.
Inuwa further revealed that, “Nigeria is thriving and has the most vibrant tech ecosystem in Africa, the fintech company which is almost twice bigger than the biggest bank in Nigeria.
The biggest bank in Nigeria is about 1.6 billion USD in valuation, while Flutter wave is almost 3.6 billion USD. While looking into e-commerce, e-health, mobility and logistics, e-recruitment, Agric-tech, prop-tech, and smart homes which is booming in Nigeria and Africa in general”.
“In the ecosystem we have five critical stakeholders to be considered; the institution: where the universities produce the human capital which is the most valuable resources in Africa, with the youngest population with more than 70% comprises of youths under the ages of 30; the Government: which is aimed at building a conducive environment for businesses to thrive through laws, provide legal frameworks, policies, and regulations.
“The private organisations: to aid employ the human capital produced and also purchase of the goods and services rendered. The risk capital: which is a major problem in Africa. If you look at most of the top jobs in Nigeria and Africa in general, they get funding from abroad, mostly from the US and Europe.
While in Nigeria we don’t have such to invest to boost the economy. And lastly the entrepreneurs: we need them also on board to understand what people want so that they can start and grow their businesses.
“The Nigeria tech ecosystem has attracted about 4.4billion USD investment between the year 2015, 2019 and 2020 respectively, and ICT contributing to about 18.5% to the nation’s GDP, and NITDA also supported about 753 start-ups in different ways through trainings, seed funding and grants”.
“Recently, we took some start-ups to Riyadh for competition, which two of them emerged as global winners and won 150,000 USD each. Nigeria is thriving and has a vibrant tech ecosystem in Africa and almost 30% to all Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Africa ends in Nigeria,” the DG said.
Inuwa further said that “NITDA has been doing a lot in the area of digital literacy where we want to use our local languages to enable every Nigerian to be able to use digital devices and consume digital services, we have trained over 3.3 million Nigerians on digital literacy to boost the economy.
“Under the IT project clearance, it has saved the country money from duplication of projects by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) which from 2019 to date , the agency through the project has saved the country over 305 billion naira from IT project implementation in MDAs towards improving effectiveness and efficiency in executing government IT projects across the country,” the DG said.
Highlight of the event was the presentation of award to the DG in recognition of his outstanding leadership and contributions to the development of the Nigerian Information Technology sector in Nigeria geared towards growth and development.
Sophos Anticipates AI-Based Attack Techniques, Prepares Detections
Sophos, a global leader in innovating and delivering cybersecurity as a service, has released two reports about the use of AI in cybercrime.
The first report—“The Dark Side of AI: Large-Scale Scam Campaigns Made Possible by Generative AI”—demonstrates how, in the future, scammers could leverage technology like ChatGPT to conduct fraud on a massive scale with minimal technical skills.
However, a second report, titled “Cybercriminals Can’t Agree on GPTs,” found that, despite AI’s potential, rather than embracing large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, some cybercriminals are skeptical and even concerned about using AI for their attacks.
On the the dark side of AI, using a simple e-commerce template and LLM tools like GPT-4, Sophos X-Ops was able to build a fully functioning website with AI-generated images, audio, and product descriptions, as well as a fake Facebook login and fake checkout page to steal users’ login credentials and credit card details.
The website required minimal technical knowledge to create and operate, and, using the same tool, Sophos X-Ops was able to create hundreds of similar websites in minutes with one button.
“It’s natural—and expected—for criminals to turn to new technology for automation. The original creation of spam emails was a critical step in scamming technology because it changed the scale of the playing field. New AIs are poised to do the same; if an AI technology exists that can create complete, automated threats, people will eventually use it. We have already seen the integration of generative AI elements in classic scams, such as AI-generated text or photographs to lure victims.
“However, part of the reason we conducted this research was to get ahead of the criminals. By creating a system for large-scale fraudulent website generation that is more advanced than the tools criminals are currently using, we have a unique opportunity to analyze and prepare for the threat before it proliferates,” said Ben Gelman, senior data scientist, Sophos.
For its research into attacker attitudes towards AI, Sophos X-Ops examined four prominent dark web forums for LLM-related discussions. While cybercriminals’ AI use appears to be in its early stages, threat actors on the dark web are discussing its potential when it comes to social engineering. Sophos X-Ops has already witnessed the use of AI in romance-based, crypto scams.
In addition, Sophos X-Ops found that the majority of posts were related to compromised ChatGPT accounts for sale and “jailbreaks”—ways to circumvent the protections built into LLMs, so cybercriminals can abuse them for malicious purposes. Sophos X-Ops also found ten ChatGPT-derivatives that the creators claimed could be used to launch cyber-attacks and develop malware. However, threat actors had mixed reactions to these derivatives and other malicious applications of LLMs, with many criminals expressing concern that the creators of the ChatGPT imitators were trying to scam them.
“While there’s been significant concern about the abuse of AI and LLMs by cybercriminals since the release of ChatGPT, our research has found that, so far, threat actors are more skeptical than enthused. Across two of the four forums on the dark web we examined, we only found 100 posts on AI. Compare that to cryptocurrency where we found 1,000 posts for the same period.
“We did see some cybercriminals attempting to create malware or attack tools using LLMs, but the results were rudimentary and often met with skepticism from other users. In one case, a threat actor, eager to showcase the potential of ChatGPT inadvertently revealed significant information about his real identity. We even found numerous ‘thought pieces’ about the potential negative effects of AI on society and the ethical implications of its use. In other words, at least for now, it seems that cybercriminals are having the same debates about LLMs as the rest of us,” said Christopher Budd, director, X-Ops research, Sophos.
47% of Companies in the META Region Plan to Outsource Cybersecurity
Company bosses are boosting their cybersecurity following an alarming increase in cyberattacks, a new study commissioned by Kaspersky has found.
The data shows that 78% of companies in the Middle East, Turkiye and Africa region suffered at least one cyber incident over the last two years. One of the main reasons cited was the shortage of qualified IT security staff (23%).
Among measures to strengthen cybersecurity, overall up to 47% of respondents claimed that their companies plan to invest in different forms of outsourcing cybersecurity in the next 12 to 18 months.
Kaspersky conducted a study to learn the opinions of IT security professionals working for SMEs and corporations worldwide regarding the impact people have on cybersecurity in a company.
The survey gathered information about various groups of people who influence cybersecurity, looking at both internal staff, and external actors. It also analysed levels and types of online safety company bosses believed warranted investment.
In the META region, more than three quarters (78%) of respondents reported that their company had experienced cybersecurity incidents within the last two years, with 83% of these judged as ‘serious’. Some said the main reasons for cyber incidents occurring in their company were a lack of necessary tools for threat detection (31%) and a shortage of internal IT security staff (23%).
The respondents indicated that a variety of measures would be appropriate to address the gaps in cybersecurity. Specifically, 24% said they would like to see more external specialists brought in.
One quarter of organisations (25%) plan to invest in third-party professional services, and as many as 32% of respondents are aiming to outsource their cybersecurity to MSP/MSSP (Managed Service Providers/Managed Security Service Provider).
The most likely industries to invest in third-party services in the near future are critical infrastructure, energy and oil & gas companies.
At the same time, many organisations plan to invest in automating their cybersecurity processes. In the next 12 months almost half of businesses in the META region (51%) have concrete plans to implement software that automatically manages their cybersecurity, while 19% are discussing the subject.
“The automation and outsourcing of cybersecurity tasks are major areas that organisations are struggling with because of a lack of experts and alert fatigue. Turning to external experts, — whether it’s outsourcing, to manage the whole cybersecurity system, or adopting expert-level services to assist the IT Security department — is the optimal solution for many.
“Cybersecurity vendors, Managed Service Providers, Managed Security Service Providers are the companies that have relevant expertise, all the necessary tools, and can manage cybersecurity effectively for customers of any size.
“Additionally, they can provide the customer with various options, such as Managed Detection and Response services, where SOC experts continuously carry out monitoring, or assistance in case of emergency like investigating a particular incident. Automation tools provided by cybersecurity vendors is another way an organisation can strengthen its cybersecurity.
“For example, our XDR and MDR has out-of-the-box automation through investigation and response playbooks and embedded AI, enabling clients and partners to significantly automate their information security processes.
“With all possible options provided by experts, each company can determine the scope of services that are needed, based on cybersecurity gaps or desired development trajectory,” comments Ivan Vassunov, VP, Corporate Products at Kaspersky.
Yiaga Asks INEC t Consider ID Cards, Passports for Voter Identification
Yiaga Africa, a non-profit civic hub of change makers has again asked Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to consider legislative changes that would make it possible to accept the national digital ID as well as biometric passports as credentials for ID verification.
At a recent workshop, the organization has also encouraged INEC to make online voter registration a permanent feature and to improve on the functionality of the portal to allow for the remote collection of biometrics.
In the last voter registration cycle, online enrolment was highly encouraged but the capture of biometrics was done only at INEC’s physical offices.
Instead of printing PVCs, Yiaga Africa has advised that INEC should make it downloadable from its portal upon registration, or issue it as a printed document at polling stations at the time of voting.
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