Strategic Stakeholders’ Sensitization Workshop Concept Paper on Cybercrime

Strategic Stakeholders’ Sensitization Workshop Concept Paper on Cybercrime, Global Terrorism & Protection of National Critical Assets

In Collaboration With

Afrigate Forensic Consults & Training (FACT) Abuja-Nigeria

&

National Institute of Police Studies (NIPS) Abuja-Nigeria

 

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE STRATEGIC STAKEHOLDERS’ SENSITIZATION WORKSHOP ON FEBRUARY 4TH 2022

 

Afrigate Forensic Consults & Training (FACT) and the National Institute of Police Studies (NIPS) are pleased to host this very crucial sensitization workshop. This is coming on the heels of the increasing devastations occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Various parts of the world are affected differently and the responses to the pandemic vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Nonetheless, we all have reasons to worry about the times we live in. This is why we have collaborated to draw the attention of critical strategic stakeholders to the multidimensional problems that will continue to confront the country and its citizens and businesses.

 

These are Worrying Trends

The Council of Europe sounds the alarm that the COVID-19 pandemic renders individuals and society extremely vulnerable in all respects. During this crisis, we all rely more than ever on computer systems, mobile devices and the Internet to work, communicate, shop, share and receive information and otherwise mitigate the impact of social distancing. There is evidence that malicious actors are exploiting these vulnerabilities to their own advantage.

As such, criminal justice authorities need to engage in full cooperation to detect, investigate, attribute and prosecute the above offences and bring to justice those that exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for their own criminal purposes. The Council relies on the Budapest Convention a framework for effective cooperation with the necessary rule of law safeguards is available to 65 States. As a result of capacity building programmes, many States should now be able to act.

In its response, INTERPOL’s assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on cybercrime has also shown a significant target shift from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure. It noted that with organizations and businesses rapidly deploying remote systems and networks to support staff working from home, criminals are also taking advantage of increased security vulnerabilities to steal data, generate profits and cause disruption.

 

In one four-month period (January to April) some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to malware and 48,000 malicious URLs – all related to COVID-19 – were detected by one of INTERPOL’s private sector partners, it noted.

Mr. Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General notes that;

The increased online dependency for people around the world, is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyber defences are up to date…Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19.

The Interpol Chief believes that the report’s findings again underline the need for closer public-private sector cooperation if we are to effectively tackle the threat COVID-19 also poses to our cyber health and safety.

The key findings highlighted by the INTERPOL’s assessment of the cybercrime landscape in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Online Scams and Phishing – Threat actors have revised their usual online scams and phishing schemes. By deploying COVID-19 themed phishing emails, often impersonating government and health authorities, cybercriminals entice victims into providing their personal data and downloading malicious content. Around two-thirds of member countries which responded to the global cybercrime survey reported a significant use of COVID-19 themes for phishing and online fraud since the outbreak.
  • Disruptive Malware (Ransomware and DDoS) – Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and healthcare institutions, due to the potential for high impact and financial benefit. In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a spike in ransomware attacks by multiple threat groups which had been relatively dormant for the past few months. Law enforcement investigations show the majority of attackers estimated quite accurately the maximum amount of ransom they could demand from targeted organizations.
  • Data Harvesting Malware – The deployment of data harvesting malware such as Remote Access Trojan, info stealers, spyware and banking Trojans by cybercriminals is on the rise. Using COVID-19 related information as a lure, threat actors infiltrate systems to compromise networks, steal data, divert money and build botnets.
  • Malicious Domains – Taking advantage of the increased demand for medical supplies and information on COVID-19, there has been a significant increase of cybercriminals registering domain names containing keywords, such as “coronavirus” or “COVID”. These fraudulent websites underpin a wide variety of malicious activities including C2 servers, malware deployment and phishing. From February to March 2020, a 569 per cent growth in malicious registrations, including malware and phishing and a 788 per cent growth in high-risk registrations were detected and reported to INTERPOL by a private sector partner.
  • Misinformation – An increasing amount of misinformation and fake news is spreading rapidly among the public. Unverified information, inadequately understood threats, and conspiracy theories have contributed to anxiety in communities and in some cases facilitated the execution of cyberattacks. Nearly 30 per cent of countries which responded to the global cybercrime survey confirmed the circulation of false information related to COVID-19. Within a one-month period, one country reported 290 postings with the majority containing concealed malware. There are also reports of misinformation being linked to the illegal trade of fraudulent medical commodities. Other cases of misinformation involved scams via mobile text-messages containing ‘too good to be true’ offers such as free food, special benefits, or large discounts in supermarkets.

 

Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has continued to play its role through public information dissemination. In its recent bulletin, the following highlights were communicated.

 

On the 6th of January 2022, 791 new confirmed cases and 8 deaths were recorded in Nigeria

Till date, 246195 cases have been confirmed, 217509 cases have been discharged and 3066 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The 791 new cases are reported from 14 States- Lagos (523), FCT (84), Oyo (48), Ondo (35), Kano (22), Borno (16), Delta (15), Edo (15), Ogun (9), Jigawa (7), Bauchi (6), Plateau (5), Rivers (4) and Bayelsa (2). Very importantly, it said a multi-sectoral national emergency operations centre (EOC), activated at Level 2, continues to coordinate the national response activities.

 

Furthermore, in its key findings, FATF (2020) revealed that there is:

 

  • The increase in COVID-19-related crimes, such as fraud, cybercrime, misdirection or exploitation of government funds or international financial assistance, is creating new sources of proceeds for illicit actors.
  • Measures to contain COVID-19 are impacting on the criminal economy and changing criminal behaviour so that profit-driven criminals may move to other forms of illegal conduct.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic is also impacting government and private sectors’ abilities to implement anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing (AML/CFT) obligations from supervision, regulation and policy reform to suspicious transaction reporting and international cooperation.
  • These threats and vulnerabilities represent emerging money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF) risks.

 

According to FATF, such risks could result in:

o Criminals finding ways to bypass customer due diligence measures;

o Increased misuse of online financial services and virtual assets to move and conceal illicit funds;

o Exploiting economic stimulus measures and insolvency schemes as a means for natural and legal persons to conceal and launder illicit proceeds;

o Increased use of the unregulated financial sector, creating additional opportunities for criminals to launder illicit funds;

o Misuse and misappropriation of domestic and international financial aid and emergency funding;

o Criminals and terrorists exploiting COVID-19 and the associated economic downturn to move into new cash-intensive and high-liquidity lines of business in developing countries.

  • AML/CFT policy responses can help support the swift and effective implementation of measures to respond to COVID-19, while managing new risks and vulnerabilities. These include:

o Domestic coordination to assess the impact of COVID-19 on AML/CFT risks and systems;

o Strengthened communication with the private sector;

o Encouraging the full use of a risk-based approach to customer due diligence;

o Supporting electronic and digital payment options.

 

Also, the FBI urges vigilances during Covid 19 pandemic. In a statement, it noted that as the United States and the world deal with the ongoing pandemic, the FBI’s national security and criminal investigative work continues. There are threats to be aware of so we can take steps to protect ourselves…governments, businesses and individuals alike.

Children who are home from school and spending more time online may be at increased risk for exploitation. Anyone can be targeted by hackers and scammers. Protecting civil rights and investigating hate crimes remain a high priority for the FBI.

Furthermore, a report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) cited in Sahara Reporters (New York) has revealed that over 88,000 AK-47 rifles and other firearms and ammunition in the custody of the Nigerian Police Force are missing or unaccounted for. The audit reviewed arms movement register, monthly returns of arms and ammunition and ammunition register at the armoury section. In the number given, 88,078 AK-47 rifles. 3,907 assorted rifles and pistols across different police formations could not be accounted for as of January 2020.

A breakdown of the missing firearms showed that 601 firearms are missing from 15 training institutions; 42 in 23 formations; 1514 missing in 37 police commands; 29 missing in zone 1-12 were not also reported as required by law, with 1,721 firearms are missing in Police Mobile Force (PMF) 1-68. Records received from force armament unit at the Force Headquarters showed 21 Police Mobile Force (PMF) Squadron, Abuja, did not report a single case of missing firearm, whereas the schedule of missing arms obtained from the same PMF showed a total number of 46 missing arms between year 2000 and February 2019.

It further said that the sum of N924.985million was paid for 11 contracts involving construction of three units of Gunshot Spotter System, supply of 50 units of Ballistic Roller Trolley and 20 units of Ballistic Mobile Surveillance House in some selected Commands and Formations. Final payments were made in March 2019 without evidence of execution. Documents such as end user certificate, store receipt voucher (SRV), store issue voucher (SIV), job completion certificate were not presented for audit examination. These reports indicate government’s deliberate actions to curb terrorism through the acquisition of relevant technologies but the efforts have been subverted in steep corruption.

Furthermore, an EKU online Blog reveals five threats to National Security and How Governments can Protect Citizens, especially in the context of ongoing economic and social meltdowns.

Every nation obviously faces threats. These threats can be social, such as aggression from a neighboring country, infiltration from a terrorist group or global economic trends that compromise the nation’s welfare. In other cases, threats can be natural, such as hurricanes or viral pandemics. Any threat challenges a nation’s power and disrupts its well-being.

The field of national security safeguards against such threats. National security protects not only citizens but also the economic stability of national institutions. In the U.S., national defense has been a guiding principle of the government at least since 1947, when then-President Harry S. Truman signed into law the National Security Act. Among other things, this legislation created the secretary of defense cabinet position, under whose leadership all branches of the military operated.

Crucially, national security and global security aren’t the same thing. National security involves a national government working autonomously to protect its citizens from threats. Global security involves a coalition of nations working together to ensure that each of them may enjoy peace and stability; this is a guiding principle of organizations like the United Nations.

One of the core responsibilities of national security is identifying potential dangers and readying the right response. This article will highlight five of the most consequential national security threats and provide insight into how governments respond to them.

What Is a National Security Threat?

Anything that threatens the physical well-being of the population or jeopardizes the stability of a nation’s economy or institutions is considered a national security threat. National security threats can be further broken down into groups.

Hostile Governments

Some national security threats come from foreign governments with hostile intentions. These threats may include direct acts of war and aggression. But they can also be subtler and harder to detect. Examples include espionage and election interference.

 

Terrorism

Countries also face threats from groups who don’t formally represent a foreign government but may be sponsored or tolerated by foreign powers. Terrorist groups may seek to cause chaos and disruption through physical violence or, in some cases, cybercrime.

Proliferation

An enemy state doesn’t have to take direct aggressive action for it to register as a potential threat to national security. The idea of proliferation, specifically with regard to advanced weaponry, may also be taken into account. If a hostile state is known to be stockpiling chemical weapons, developing nuclear capabilities or otherwise escalating its capacity for destruction, it qualifies as a national security threat, even without using those weapons in a direct attack.

Cybercrime

Online criminals pose a danger to national security, including those not associated with hostile governments or terrorist groups. Cybercriminals may hack economic institutions, government websites or power infrastructures as a way of stealing or extorting money. They may also commit cybercrimes to advance an ideological agenda.

Natural Disasters and Diseases

Not all threats to national security involve the malignant influence of bad actors. Hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters can pose serious damage to a nation’s people and physical infrastructure. Pandemics like COVID-19 weaken health care systems and economies.

  1. Pandemic Threats

For a recent example of a national security threat, look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic. While pandemics can unfold on a global scale, different countries face them in different ways, often to varying levels of success.

This still-unfolding global health crisis demonstrates how widespread disease endangers not only the physical wellness of citizens but also socioeconomic structures. Meanwhile, global responses to COVID-19 have highlighted how governments can protect against such crises.

How Disease Disrupts

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every country in the world. In addition to causing alarming and tragic death tolls, the virus has shown the widespread social and economic havoc that a pandemic can yield.

The highly infectious nature of the disease has forced many businesses to close their doors, either temporarily or permanently. This has resulted in significant revenue losses.

As businesses have closed or limited their services, it’s resulted in layoffs and reduced work hours. In the U.S. alone, COVID-19 has sent the joblessness rate from under 4% to over 10%.

The effects of the pandemic have impacted different industries at disproportionate levels, with some industries hit especially hard. Examples include the travel and hospitality industries.

The cumulative impact of lost revenues and rising unemployment has put many nations on the brink of recession and resulted in turbulent stock market activity that has impacted many U.S. investors.

Protection Against Diseases

COVID-19 is a reminder that the threat of a global pandemic is ever-present. It’s a call for national governments to be prepared. Governments have a number of ways to safeguard their citizenry from diseases and viral threats.

Connecting Laboratories

By connecting research laboratories, governments can create an infrastructure for easy, collaborative work toward vaccines and other treatments.

 

Government Communication

Government communication can also play an important role; for example, through clear communication about the importance of hand-washing, social distancing and mask-wearing, governments can educate citizens on how to keep themselves safe.

Economic Intervention

Governments may also offer intervention in the economy, whether through widespread payments to citizens or with a more targeted stimulus to industries hit hardest by shutdowns.

Emergency Management

Emergency management systems may be put into place, ensuring that governments have all the right tools to decisively communicate with citizens in the event of an emergency.

  1. Biological Warfare

Some diseases occur naturally and not through any act of malignancy or hostility. However, history also provides many examples of biological weapons being harnessed to cause widespread terror. Biological warfare poses a significant threat to national security, yet governments can put into place important safeguards to minimize this risk.

Botulinum Toxin

Botulinum toxin, classified by scientists as a neurotoxic protein, has a number of commercial uses, both in food processing and in the manufacturing of cosmetic products. However, when weaponized and deployed, it can cause significant health effects, including the disease botulism.

The use of botulinum toxin as a weapon originated in World War II. Since then, it’s been widely classified as a potential agent of biological warfare. In the 1990s, a Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, deployed this toxin on the streets of Tokyo, causing panic but thankfully resulting in no fatalities.

Anthrax

Another potential agent of biological warfare is anthrax. Anthrax is a highly infectious, potentially lethal disease that’s caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. This naturally occurring bacterium has been around for centuries, but was first harnessed and weaponized in World War I. During World War II, the U.S., Great Britain and Japan all experimented with anthrax as a weapon.

In the modern era, anthrax is a common agent of biological warfare. This is because the bacteria is easily found in nature or synthesized in a laboratory and because it can be released quickly and securely.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that anthrax has been weaponized in the past. “In 2001, powdered anthrax spores were deliberately put into letters that were mailed through the U.S. postal system,” the agency reports. “Twenty-two people, including 12 mail handlers, got anthrax, and five of these 22 people died.”

Protecting Against Biological Warfare

These are just two bioterror threats nations face. Crucially, governments can prepare for such attacks with approaches like the following:

  • Governments can train public health workers on how to deploy rapid responses.
  • Governments can direct funding to help public health departments stockpile medications and treatments.
  • Laws can regulate the possession and transfer of hazardous ingredients that may be used to create biological weapons.
  • Laboratories can be kept at the ready, prepared to conduct testing at the first sign of biological warfare.
  1. Cyberterrorism

Cyberterrorism provides another national security threat. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a global think tank, reports dozens of incidents of cyberterrorism in 2020 alone. In India, a group of human rights activists was targeted by terrorists who infected their computers with malware. Suspected North Korean hackers compromised two prominent European defense firms, sending them fake job offers as a way to infiltrate their systems and retrieve classified information. These are just two of the countless examples of criminals using hacking and other nefarious digital schemes to cause disruption and chaos.

Types of Cyberterrorism

Experts place cyberterrorist attacks into three distinct categories: simple-unstructured, advanced-structured and complex-coordinated.

Simple-unstructured attack. A terrorist deploys basic hacking tools against a single target; usually, the tools used were made by someone else.

Advanced-structured attack. A terrorist conducts a more sophisticated and targeted attack against multiple targets.

Complex-coordinated attack. A terrorist employs highly advanced hacking tools to cause mass disruption, targeting an entire business, state or nation.

Threat of Cyberterrorism

Cyberterrorist activity poses a threat to national security for a number of reasons:

  • Because banking and financial systems are increasingly digitized and connected to the internet, many cybersecurity experts fear that hackers could cause widespread economic instability, potentially causing a recession or depression.
  • There are also fears that illicitly acquired information could be publicized. In other words, hackers could breach government agencies as well as the privacy of citizens.
  • Still another fear regarding cyberterrorism is that by hacking into power or utility infrastructures, terrorists could cause chaos throughout major metropolitan areas.

Cyberthreats are alarming because they can be deployed remotely, anonymously and cheaply.

Protection Against Cyberterrorism

Governments may take multiple precautions against cyberterrorist activity. In the U.S., for example, the Department of Defense monitors U.S. interests in cyberspace and maintains a list of those who’ve been assessed as potential threats. Former President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing U.S officials to impose sanctions on those suspected of participation in cyberterrorism against the country.

Additionally, governments may provide guidance to businesses and local municipalities, equipping them with best practices for enforcing strong encryption and cybersecurity measures.

  1. Climate Change and National Security

Climate change may also be considered a national security threat as its long-term effects may bring disastrous ecological consequences. However, because this is a threat that all nations face, and because much of the work done to fight climate change is done through international coalitions, climate change is more often regarded as a global security issue.

Impact of Climate Change

Climate change adversely impacts national economies in many ways. Some examples include the following:

  • Rising sea levels result in flooding, which does significant damage to real estate and infrastructure in coastal areas.
  • Droughts and irregular rain patterns have both been linked to climate change and could cause disruption to agricultural practices and supply chains.
  • Climate change may also result in extreme storms and natural disasters, which cause widespread property damage and claim human lives.

Combating Climate Change

Climate change presents serious risks. Governments can take meaningful steps to protect national security interests against climate change and its ravages:

  • Governments can set local emissions goals, reducing the prevalence of air pollution.
  • Governments can encourage the use of electric or hybrid vehicles, such as through tax incentives.
  • Governments can invest in public transport infrastructures, reducing the need for cars on the road.
  • Government science agencies can raise public awareness about the threat of climate change and about the actions individuals can take to minimize this threat.
  • Governments can incentivize carbon farming and other ecologically neutral practices.
  • Governments can also impose penalties on businesses that don’t meet environmental standards.
  1. Transnational Crimes

An important additional national security threat is a transnational crime. The FBI defines transnational crime groups as groups that seek their own power, influence, or financial gains through illegal activity, regardless of physical geography.

Examples of Transnational Crime

Transnational crime groups work across geographic boundaries and violate the laws of multiple nations; because of this, they pose a threat to many countries at the same time. Stopping this activity may require separate national security agencies to work together — a challenging task given questions of jurisdiction as well as friction points between nations.

Transnational crime may take a number of forms, including the following:

  • The procurement of illegal goods, including drug trafficking
  • Illicit services, such as human trafficking
  • Business infiltration and racketeering
  • Precautions Against Transnational Crime

Different countries respond to transnational crime in different ways. In the U.S, the FBI has a transnational crime programme devoted to eliminating any criminal activity that poses a threat to U.S. interests.

Specifically, the FBI uses laws such as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which provides them with legal avenues to disrupt and dismantle entire criminal enterprises, rather than targeting individual criminal actors one at a time. According to the FBI, the agency uses “a multifaceted approach” to locate transnational crime groups and to disable their infrastructures for criminal activity.

Keeping the Country and Its People Safe

Wide-ranging threats imperil every nation. It’s vital for governments to put national security and emergency response efforts in place, allowing them to identify and thwart any natural or human-made disruptions to peace, safety and stability.

If you are passionate about these goals, and if you want to pursue a career beyond professional development, keeping nations safe, you can begin by finding out more about opportunities to prepare yourself. Enrollment in an academic programme devoted to national security and emergency response can help you develop the skills required for success in this field. Learn more about National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN)’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes on Criminology and Security Studies. Same is true at the Nile University of Nigeria (NUN) and the Cyber Security programme at Bingham University (BU), Karu, Nasarawa State. The National Universities Commission (NUC) has approved several undergraduate and postgraduate programmes on Intelligence and Security studies. Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti and Novena University, Kwale, Delta State are classical examples, as well.

Then this news by Daka (2021). The Federal Government denied a report by the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) alluding that the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) was laundering N18 billion through Nigeria’s financial system to deepen terrorism. The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), which reacted yesterday via a statement issued by its Chief Media Analyst, Ahmed Dikko, faulted the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) body that observed the fund was generated yearly from trading and taxing communities in the Lake Chad region.

GIABA, which was established in 2000 to lead the West African sub-region’s efforts to tackle Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT), GIABA had also criticized the Nigerian government for its alleged failure to track the movement of funds by terrorist groups, through the country’s financial system.

Trainings on all aspects of these threats are possible professionally and academically.

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Daka, T (December, 2021). FG disputes alleged N18b terrorism funding by ISWAP. The Guardian Newspapers (Lagos). 7 December 2021

FATF (2020), COVID-19-related Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing – Risks and Policy Responses, FATF, Paris, France, www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/methodandtrends/documents/covid-19-ML-TF.html

FBI Transnational Organized Crime. Infosec, Security: How to Explain Threat Actor Types and Attributes

SAHARAREPORTERS (January, 2022). 88,000 AK-47 Rifles, Other Firearms Missing from Nigerian Police Custody – Audit Report. SAHARAREPORTERS, NEW YORK JAN 03, 2022

World Health Organization, Biological Weapons

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