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NCC Rallies Stakeholders to Tackle Multibillion Naira Losses to E-Fraud



Industry Consumer Advisory Forum ICAF e-fraud

Worried by the rising scourge of electronic fraud (e-fraud) perpetrated on telecoms platform, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has converged stakeholders to chart a way for mitigating the scourge reported to be responsible for billions of naira losses annually.

The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta highlighted strategic measures to mitigate the menace and restore confidence of telecoms consumers in the country.

Speaking at the commission’s Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) 2023 Open Forum held in Lagos with the theme: Combating E-Fraud on Telecom Platforms and Building Consumer Confidence in The Digital Economy, the EVC said all hands must be on deck to stamp out e-fraud.

He said tackling the menace requires multi-stakeholder cooperation among critical players such as the NCC, mobile network operators (MNOs), financial regulators and institutions, security agencies, and event telecoms consumers.

According to him, E-fraud encompasses a wide range of malicious activities carried out via electronic means, including identity theft, phishing, hacking, and unauthorized access to personal and financial information, with the intention to defraud or take advantage of victims.

He said these criminal activities may not only cause significant financial losses but also erode consumer trust in the digital ecosystem.

As a way of mitigating the vice, he said the NCC as the regulator of the communications sector has a crucial role to play and has been at the forefront of combatting e-fraud, through various data protection regulations and cyber security measures.

He said: “To further protect telecom consumers, the Nigerian Communications Commission’s Computer Security Incident Response Team (NCC-CSIRT) periodically notifies telecom consumers of the latest cybersecurity threats and how to avoid falling victim to them.

“NCC-CSIRT in collaboration with the Nigeria Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT) at the office of the National Security Adviser has been at the forefront of protecting telecom consumers from cyber threats.

“The provision of timely advisories has helped to protect consumers from being unfairly targeted by cyber-attacks, which goes a long way in ensuring that they can access digital services without suffering unwarranted losses. We strongly believe that by fostering a culture of vigilance and knowledge, we can collectively reduce the success rate of e-fraud attempts.”

He said the commission type-approve communications equipment and collaborates with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to ensure the safety of their networks and conducts regular audits and assessments to verify compliance and encourage a culture of cybersecurity within the industry

Meanwhile, the EVC said there is need to establish comprehensive legal frameworks and standards that mandate sound security practices for telecom operators.

The legal framework, according to him, must focus on data protection, privacy and incident response, ensuring that operators are held accountable for any lapses in security on their respective networks.

In addition, he said telecoms operators are mandated by the Nigerian Communication Act to ensure the security and integrity of their networks and to prevent it from being used in, or in relation to, the commission of any offence under any law in operation in Nigeria.

As such, he said telecom operators must invest in robust infrastructure, employ state-of-the-art security measures, and conduct regular audits to identify vulnerabilities and address them promptly.

“Additionally, operators should implement stringent authentication protocols, two-factor authentication, and encryption mechanisms to safeguard customer data and prevent unauthorized access,” he said.

Meanwhile, the NCC boss said the Nigeria Data Protection Act 2023 recently signed into law will provide a legal framework for the protection of personal information and the regulation of how personal information is processed, among other things.

He further emphasised the that law enforcement agencies must collaborate closely with telecom operators and regulatory bodies to investigate and prosecute e-fraud perpetrators.

He said this will require enhanced coordination, information sharing, and dedicated cybercrime units, saying this can go a long way in deterring criminals and bringing them to justice.

“Strengthening international cooperation in combating cross-border e-fraud is also imperative, as cybercriminals often exploit jurisdictional limitations,” he said.

Earlier in his address, Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau at the NCC, Alkasim Abubakar Umar, said rapid rapid expansion telecommunications has opened new avenues for criminals to exploit unsuspecting individuals through various forms of electronic fraud.

Making reference to some reports, he said Nigerians have lost about N12.5 billion to financial crimes linked to the telecommunications industry in the past four years.

“The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimated that 600 billion US Dollars is lost to cybercrime each year, an increase from a 2014 study that put global losses at about 445 billion US Dollars.”

He lamented that Africa recorded a massive rise in the e-fraud in the first six months of 2022, with phishing and scams hitting 438 per cent and 174 per cent in Kenya and Nigeria, respectively.

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