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CYBER TERRORISM AND NIGERIA'S ECONOMY

By NBF News
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Hugo Odiogor with agency report
'As we sit here, there are people trying to slam into our system everyday, so we have to be ever vigilant against an ever-changing foe.' This is the view of NASDAQ CEO, Robert Greifeld in July 2011 whose stock exchange spends nearly a billion dollars a year on information security as it comes under constant attack from hackers and cyber terrorists.

In this age of cyber terrorism, the financial system of any country is vulnerable to financial terrorism from within and outside. It is therefore, important to treat this as a vital component of national security. This means that banks and financial institutions must be exposed to both physical security and soft security orientations in their daily operations.

In an international system that is characterized by conflicts, suspicion, competition and acrimony, we are witnessing a situation where nation-states, non-state actors and criminals are devising ways to break into the computer system of industrial, defence and financial sectors to obtain vital data that could compromise the operations of these institutions.

The United States President, Barack Obama, took to tackle cyber terrorism by approaching the Congress to get a comprehensive cyber security legislation that would increase U.S. Government's ability to respond to the growing threat.

In Britain, the foreign office is working on getting an international collaboration to combat cyber crimes, organising an international forum highlight on the vulnerability of nations to this scourge. The office has been a victim of sustained cyber attacks. The objective of that conference was to make nations collaborate and work together to combat international cyber crimes.

Economic and Financial terrorism can be defined as the use of violence to make political and economic statements by groups and individuals who feel aggrieved, deprived or marginalized. This entails attack on economic infrastructure, workers, and economic institutions with the objectives of crippling economic activities and instilling fear in workers.

We saw the Nigerian variant of economic terrorism with the agitation for resource control and demand for economic justice and equity in the Niger Delta region.

In Nigeria, we have seen cases of stolen credit card numbers, the use of on-line facilities to dispatch scam letters, but the emerging scenario where large amount of government information could be stolen has not been given serious attention. Yet ability to thwart the growing threat of cyber terrorism.

As Nigeria's security community continues to grapple with to tackle the growing incidents of physical terrorism and other related crimes,it is pertinent  to focus on  the danger posed cyber terrorism to the financial, telecommunications,  defence, and industrial sectors.

With the lingering discontent on the global economic order, virtual criminals have become more daring to vent their anger on giant corporations national government and financial institutions,

It has been revealed that hackers have targetted Wall streets investment Banks for more than a decade but in recent times this has intensified because of the development of new sophisticated soft wares which cyber terrorists could deplore to wipe out criminal data on financial defence, telecommunication systems, to cripple the sectors and in the process paralyse the entire economy.

Consequently, Government officials and industrial leaders around the world are rising to the challenges of protecting sensitive data on finance, defence, oil and gas  sectors , from hackers who are breaking into the computer systems, to install malicious soft wares that enables them to  to steal investors financial information, Telecommunication, defence, energy sectors data.

They also use computer technology to effect huge transfer of funds, for sundry purposes. There have warnings that hackers could exploit security vulnerabilities in national and financial institutions to wreck havoc across global markets and in the process, cause economic mayhem.

We have seen the activities of on-line whistle blowers, using diplomatic information to expose the conduct of government affairs. We have entered into the age of electronic spying, perpetuation of identity theft and other forms of information technology enable crimes have become contemporary realities.

While government and private security have tried to play down the danger, experts are have warned  that hackers have the capability to ensconced themselves inside network of financial institutions to disable trading systems, manipulate stocks, bonds and currency markets, initiate large transfer of funds or turn off ATM machines or cause flights to crash.

So, all over the world, there is a growing concern on the dangers of financial terrorism perpetuated through the information technology enabled virtual world.  The state of affairs now is that nations, institutions and individuals can ignore early warning signs of cyber terrorism  at their own peril.

China has been repeatedly accused to be the base of producing these malwares, both Googles and McA'fee have categorically blamed China for providing the soft ware for hackers to broke into the computer systems of five global oil and gas companies to steal bidding plans and other critical proprietary information.

The office of NSA in US has been working with financial firms about sharing electronic information on malicious soft wares, through developing pilot schemes, yet tremendous vulnerabilities exist as several companies have suffered damages from hackers.

Companies like Google Inc, Lackheed Martin Corp. and NASDAQ OMX are prominent among the victims of cyber criminals. In fact, NASDAQ alone spent over one billion every year to beef up its information security.

Nigeria must not wait until it is caught napping before it would react. Presently, government and industry are lagging behind in areas of physical and situational security awareness. Crime is a function of the brain and criminals are constantly renewing their minds and redefining their strategies.

It is one thing for the federal government to mount security cameras and surveillance gadgets around major urban cities in the country, it is equally another bail game to have the man capacity to monitor and interpret.

Investor's information according to FBI's Executive Director, Mr. Shawn Henry, the US financial community losses several millions of dollars ever year to cyber related crimes Hackers who infiltrated the NASDAQ's computer systems last year installed malicious software that allowed them to spy on the directors of publicly held companies, according to two people familiar with an investigation into the matter.

The new details showed the cyber attack was more serious than previously thought, as NASDAQ OMX Group had said in February that there was no evidence the hackers accessed customer information. The organization has changed its position since it dose not know what information the hackers might have stolen.

The US security community is still investigating the attack and according to Tom Kellermann, 'God knows exactly what they have done. The long term impact of such attack is still unknown. ' Kellermann is a Cyber security expert; with long years of experience in protecting central banks and other high-profile financial institutions from cyber terrorists .

There re cases where hackers infiltrate one target to gain access to other networks. For example, in March 2011, hackers stole digital security keys from EMC Corp's RSA Security division which  they later used to breach the networks of defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.

Executive Assistant FBI Director Shawn Henry believes that the American financial services sector loses hundreds of millions of dollars to hackers every year, and the attacks were increasingly 'destructive' in nature. 'We know adversaries have full unfettered access to certain networks. Once there they have the ability to destroy data, We see that as a credible threat to all sectors, but specifically the financial services sector.'

Head of the National Security Agency General Keith Alexander,  said the NSA was working with NASDAQ to help protect its network against further attacks. NASDAQ CEO Robert Greifeld said  the exchange spends nearly a billion dollars a year on information security while the United States is shoring up its defenses, in face of 'tremendous vulnerabilities' to growing number of increasingly destructive electronic attacks.

From the unfolding scenario, it is important that we consider the issue of financial security is vital components of national security and Banks and financial institutions are vulnerable to incidents of cyber terrorism both from within and outside, especially in this age of ICT This means that banks and financial institutions must be exposed to both physical security and soft security orientations in their daily operations.