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Cyber Awareness Trainer Says Nigeria Needs to Step Up Cyber Security

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Helen George, Cyber Security Awareness Trainer

Cyber security has taken a front burner and has been among the biggest challenges facing the world today. It featured prominently in the recently concluded elections in the United States of Americas well as in the Gulf States brawl, where Qatar claimed that its server was hacked and an inappropriate content was then pushed out.

Away from the way cyber security affects nations, businesses and individuals across the world are not left out as, every day, thousands of online accounts get compromised, one way or the other.

I was with Helen George, Cyber Security Awareness Trainer, a while ago and we had an interesting discussion on ways in which Nigeria can work towards keeping our cyber space safe.

Helen is definitely not satisfied with the current state of Nigeria’s cyber security.

She is of the view that we are in the 21st century and Nigeria is still behaving as if we are in the Stone Age as far as cyber security is concerned, so, we need to step it up. She stated that we do not know whether or not Nigeria was affected by the recent Wanacry cyber-attack because we do not have a good recording system.

“If we had a good recording system, if we had a good incidence response system in the country, we will know whether we are affected or not”, she opined.

One of Helen’s advice to individuals and businesses regarding cyber security is to have an Anti-virus installed on their computers and she considers this very crucial. She also said that online users should take advantage of 30 days free Anti-virus offers of most Anti-virus platforms.

“You can, then, choose to either continue with them or sign up with another Anti-virus outfit after the expiration of the 30 free usage days”, she stated. Helen also advised the changing of Passwords often. One other advice she gave, was that people should create Guest Login on their computers to prevent just about anyone from gaining access to their files. She also, advocated for the installation of Firewall as well as making sure that all software applications are up to date.

“This is where a lot of organisations fail. People just think that, once they have the software, they are god to go. You have to update. You have to make sure that your workers, your employees , that they are aware of these consequences that follows them leaving their computers unlocked or the inserting of just any USB into their computer”, she emphasized.

Helen stated that there is a way one can completely lock down his/her computer’s USB connectors so that, not just anyone can have access to inserting a USB in that computer and this is a very good idea to follow. 

She advised that each organization should have a good CMB, (Change Management Board). “Before anything is done on your system, you make sure that you go through proper a Change Management System, where every member of the organization will sit to discuss how the change will affect each system. This will be based on the roles being played by each member of the team”, she reiterated.

When asked to compare how cyber-attacks is dealt with in the USA and in Nigeria, Helen made it known that there was no basis for comparison. “In the US, once there is a kind of outbreak or compromise in an organization, you report that breach”, she stated.  She also said that there is coordination for research into solutions to breaches, vulnerabilities and future possibilities, especially, on what to do to mitigate the breaches or to better address it or prevent these from happening.

Helen was, however, emphatic in saying that there is no privacy in Nigeria. She stated that, even, an ordinary man, walking down the street does not know the meaning of privacy. “You want to have a conversation that involves your banking details, that involves your personal life and you are there on the phone, shouting about it?”, she retorted.

She explained that, with you exposing your bank details, gives anyone around with an ulterior motive, to trail you until they hit you and steal from you.

She stated that, people’s data are also not secured with third parties that require such details, such as the banks. “I went to a bank and while I was filling out my form, I was looking at other people’s data on the table. I could easily bring out my phone and take pictures of those other people’s data. That is a huge vulnerability out there and these vulnerabilities can be exploited”, she opined. She stated that. it is easy to assume other people’s identities that way and get away with it, e.g., using another person’s data to obtain a Driver’s License or even, taking a bank loan!

You can have as many privacy policies as possible, but if they are not enforced by the people that created them, it is useless she concluded.

CFA is the Founder, www.CFAtech.ng & Co-producer/Presenter,Tech Trends on Channels Television

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Right To Privacy? Nigeria Needs A Data Protection Law

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By ‘Gbenga Sesan

“The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic communications is hereby guaranteed and protected.” – Section 37 of the Nigerian constitution.

Nigeria’s constitutional promise of data protection is far from being fulfilled. This is especially true for transactions involving the transfer of personal data from individuals to governments and businesses. Despite the increasingly important role that data plays as the currency of the country’s emerging digital economy, Nigeria does not have a Data Privacy or Data Protection law.

Even though Nigeria lacks a robust data management infrastructure, several government agencies and sector regulators collect citizens’ private data with little respect for their rights.

Not only is the same data collected by different agencies, citizens have little control over what is collected, how it is used and have no clear course of action should their data be abused.

The Nigerian Communications Commission, Independent National Electoral Commission, Nigerian Immigration Service, Central Bank of Nigeria, National Identity Management Commission, Federal Road Safety Corps, and other bodies routinely collect or oversee the collection of biometric and other data in their respective silos.

Unfortunately, the conversation around the need to harmonize such sensitive data remains just that — a conversation. Various legislative proposals that could protect people’s data are making little progress, exposing citizens to the real risk of data disasters.

Sensitive data including email addresses and phone numbers are frequently advertised for sale online. In one recent case, information of registered voters appeared online following a data breach. In an equally worrying example, sensitive health data processed by a bank on behalf of a hospital was made available online.

In another case, laptops were sold still holding subscriber information that was captured during the SIM card registration process. In all of these breaches, the lack of a clear data protection law meant that those responsible for handling the data were not held accountable.

However, there is hope for better data control and protection in Nigeria. Various government agencies recently resumed discussions on duplicate data collection, control and use. In addition, a Data Protection Bill passed by the House of Representatives is now being considered by the Senate.

The Digital Rights and Freedom Bill, that has made good progress in the House of Representatives, also has a section on data and information privacy. Clearly, the problem we face is not lack of proposals but lack of follow-through.

The National Identity Management Commission, responsible for the management of citizen data, must work with other agencies and stakeholders to secure the appropriate legislative environment that Nigeria needs for personal data protection and privacy. Citizens, who are new to the concept of data ownership, need to be made aware of their rights — including the proposals that could soon become the law of the land.

Until a robust, enforceable law is in place, Nigerian citizens will continue to be denied the protections that their constitution grants them.

‘Gbenga Sesan is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative

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IT Leaders’ Challenges: A Shortage Of Talent And A Need To Reinvent Cultures

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By Keith Fenner, VP: Sage Enterprise Africa & Middle East

African CIOs must master the difficult balance between managing the risks of deploying immature technologies and those of being left behind by emerging, disruptive trends if they are to help their businesses drive profitable growth in the years to come.

That’s one of the key insights I took from Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Cape Town, where many speakers focused on the state-of-play in the Internet of Things (IoT), the blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

These disruptive technologies will transform the way we do business over the next five to 10 years, yet they are not quite ready for prime-time deployment. African organisations have a few years to experiment with the tech in non-critical applications so that they are ready when the technologies burst into the mainstream.

IoT plus blockchain will enable a wide variety of new business opportunities in the future. Though they are evolving, they have a decade or more before they are truly mature.

A lack of standardisation, the business process changes it will demand, and the impact of large ledger sizes on network and computing resources are among the challenges for blockchain. IoT, meanwhile, raises concerns of the diversity of the hardware in use, power consumption, network performance and privacy.

It’S Time To Experiment (And Learn)

Those factors preclude massive investment and wide deployment for business-critical applications. This is a time to conduct many small proofs of concept to develop best practices and build the organisational capacity and infrastructure for tomorrow’s digital business models. Constant experimentation and innovation are essential if companies are to keep up with the rate of change.

We recommend doing 6-8-week experiments to start the digital transformation journey. Fail fast, fix, and move on. But organisations that start this journey will find themselves challenged by a shortage of digital talent, difficulties in scaling up small-scale experiments and a need to reinvent organisational cultures for constant innovation.

Where Is The Talent?

The shortage of skills in emerging technology areas was a key theme of the conference and of the conversations I had with many attendees. Organisations need strong in-house technical knowledge and skills in IoT and blockchain to manage vendor risk in these emerging areas. Companies need people able to evaluate the specialist offerings from niche vendors so that they can make good choices in a complex and constantly changing landscape.

One thing’s for sure: top quality IT talent has never been in more demand, so make sure your business is set up to attract and retain it.

Innovation As Part Of The Culture

Many large organisations are treating innovation and disruption as separate disciplines because of the challenges of driving change in an established business and securing the right skills.

Companies are pursuing a range of strategies to drive innovation in their businesses, ranging from setting up venture capital funds and incubators, investing in tech and digital companies, running innovation challenges and forming strategic alliances with tech companies.

However, it’s not enough for the techies to know about the technology, or to build innovation hubs within the business to play with disruptive new solutions. Blockchain and the IoT will one day affect everyone from risk and compliance to production to sales to finance. Every team needs to start to understand what these technologies mean for the company’s future, and adopt innovation as part of its mandate.

It can’t be stressed enough that innovation can’t happen in isolation — it must be part of the organisation’s culture. The IT team needs to develop new skills and change its culture to support the organisation as it integrates new technologies into the business. They will need vision and storytelling skills to help the organisation prepare for this change.

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5 Ways To Make Your Laptop Battery Last Longer

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By Gideon Ayogu

We have all been in that position where our laptop battery starts to malfunction; that moment when a 10-hour battery life device depreciates to serving you for one hour or less.

Insight from the Research and Development Unit of Yudala, Nigeria’s fastest growing composite e-commerce outfit, shows that while laptop batteries often depreciate with constant use over time, misuse or wrong usage often leads to this happening within a short period of time and at a time when you should still be deriving optimum utility from your laptop battery.

Laptop batteries are usually made from lithium-ion: a lightweight, high-power battery often used in computers and mobile phones.

Lithium-ion batteries come in various shapes, although a flat rectangle is most common in smartphones.

It is lighter than the nickel cadmium battery and the nickel metal-hydride battery, thus accounting for its lightweight nature. Lithium-ion batteries work by the movement of lithium ions through a membrane and are clearly different from lithium batteries.

Whereas lithium batteries contain lithium metal and are not rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries do not contain lithium metal and are rechargeable.

However, lithium-ion batteries do not last forever. Each lithium-ion battery will have an average of 600 charge cycles and will work optimally for about 4-5 years without a drastic depreciation on battery life.

Hence, your laptop battery should serve you well for at least 3-4 years depending on how frequently you use the device and recharge the battery.

Research shows that frequent travelers only get a couple of years out of their laptop battery because they tend to charge intermittently and keep their laptop unplugged when on the move which kills the laptop battery faster.

To help you get maximum life out of your laptop battery, the following tips from Yudala will go a long way in helping you save the cost of investing in a new battery at short intervals:

Avoid Putting Your Laptop On Soft Surfaces

It is easy to place your laptop on your thighs or bed while working at home or during your rest time. Many of us are guilty of this.

However, if you need your battery to last long or have a stronger life span, it is advisable to place the device on hard surfaces such as tables or desks in order to avoid over-heating.

Research has shown that heat is one of the biggest obstacles to your battery’s longevity because your laptop fan can’t circulate air properly when your laptop is placed on a soft surface.

Be Careful How You Store Your Laptop Battery

This cannot be over-emphasized. It is advisable to store your laptop in a cool place with less heat. This tip is directed especially at people who keep their laptops in their cars where it can get really hot when it’s sunny. Laptop batteries do not work well with heat and might stop working if exposed to excessive humidity. Research shows that, if a stored battery is not charged, it starts to lose it energy and might get damaged. Also, for travelers who leave their laptops behind, it is advisable to store your battery with a 40 – 60% charge instead of a full charge. Study shows that fully charged batteries depreciate faster than half-charged batteries.

Do Not Leave Your Laptop Dead Before Plugging It In

There is said to be a problem called ‘battery memory’ which, cause batteries to ‘forget’ their full charge capacity and start charging at lower levels; charging to 100% and discharging to 0%.

Current research indicates that this problem doesn’t exist anymore and we have the modern lithium-ion battery to thank for that. It is important to point out that the problem here is not over-charging your laptop, which makes us believe that letting your battery charge more than 100 percent will make the battery wear out faster.

A research study by Battery University shows that, modern devices are designed to stop charging at 100 per cent hence, keeping them plugged in doesn’t impact the battery’s lifespan.

However, a lot of us wait until our laptop dies before we plug it in, which isn’t good for our battery. You should avoid letting your battery drain and discharge below 20 per cent, else, it would reduce the charging capacity of your battery.

Show Your Laptop Some Love

This starts with your battery. Your battery is the powerhouse of your laptop. Abandoning your laptop battery and just letting it do its job without paying much attention to it won’t cut it.

Make sure to take care of the battery contact points; the battery contact connects the battery to the laptop.

If the contact point gets dirty or damaged, it may reduce or disrupt the flow of power to the laptop.  If you have a removable battery, you can carefully wipe your battery with a soft cloth to get rid of dust. However, you have nothing to worry about if your laptop battery is sealed.

Update Your Laptop

As underrated as this may sound, an outdated hardware may reduce the performance of your laptop thereby affecting the laptop battery.

The cells in laptop batteries degrade over time, and it is totally normal for old laptop batteries to hold charge less than an hour.

Current laptops can achieve up to 10 hours of standard usage because of the software that comes with the perk of a new laptop. Henceforth, upgrading your laptop hardware will significantly improve your laptop battery life.

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