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Nigeria’s Internet Fraudsters Focus on Corporate e-mail – Report

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West Africa’s infamous Internet scammers have shifted their targets from impersonations of online love interests, princes and US soldiers to hijacking corporate e-mails, costing businesses hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

It is a much more lucrative venture that works by gaining access to corporate e-mail login details or passing off almost-identical addresses as the real deal, a scam known as business e-mail compromise (BEC), according to a report by cyber security firm CrowdStrike.

These Nigerian rackets now dwarf other types of online criminal theft, amounting to at least $5.3 billion of losses between October 2013 and the end of 2016, said CrowdStrike and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3).

“There’s a disproportionate amount of criminal gains they get from it. The lion’s share of ill-gotten, fraudulent money is around these business e-mail compromise attacks. It’s a huge problem for our customer set,” Adam Meyers, vice-president of intelligence at California-based CrowdStrike, told Reuters.

Nigeria has become one of the hubs of BEC. Nigerian online fraudsters, known as “Yahoo boys”, became notorious for trying to pass themselves off as people in financial need or Nigerian princes offering an outstanding return on an investment.

The capers became known as “419 scams” after the section of the national penal code that dealt, ineffectively, with fraud.

Yahoo boys even impersonated a US forces commander in Afghanistan to defraud people by asking for help in recovering the assets of deceased soldiers. It forced the commander to issue a Facebook statement saying he would never try to contact anyone asking for financial help.

Now the scammers have bigger fish to fry, with the potential gains amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to CrowdStrike.

Behind the fraudsters is an organised crime network with its hands in human trafficking, drugs, prostitution, money laundering and e-mail fraud and cyber crime, the CrowdStrike report said. “The magnitude of this criminal threat has only recently begun to be understood.”

The Black Axe gang sprang from Nigerian universities and now extends from Africa to North America, Europe and Asia. Its targets have ranged from semiconductor makers to schools in US states including Connecticut and Minnesota, passing themselves off as executives and lawyers to trick employees into wiring sometimes millions of dollars a day into bank accounts.

From there, the money is quickly laundered through a series of bank accounts that can be traced to Hong Kong and China, where the trail often goes cold because diverging regulations foil monitoring, Meyers said.

With that money, the Nigerian scammers are often enjoying the high life, said Meyers, noting social media accounts filled with pictures of them posing with luxury Mercedes cars, gold watches, jewellery and champagne.

“It’s really hard to stop; you can’t stop it with anti-virus or any kind of software, it’s really kind of a human problem.”

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Ex-Israeli Minister Who Lived in Nigeria Accused of Spying

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Gonen Segev, former Israeli cabinet minister with a checkered history of attempted drug smuggling and credit-card fraud has been charged with spying for Iran.

 

Segev reportedly lived in Nigeria, where he first made contact with the Iranian Embassy in 2012, the Shin Bet internal security service said Monday.

Gonen Segev

Segev, who served as energy and infrastructure minister more than two decades ago, was arrested in May and charged last Friday with espionage and aiding the enemy in wartime.

 

He’s accused of providing Iran with information on Israel’s energy industry and security sites, as well as political and defense officials.

 

Most details of the indictment are under a gag order, Segev’s attorneys, Eli Zohar and Moshe Mazor, said in response to the charges.

 

The Shin Bet announcement “assigns the matters extreme severity while the indictment itself, whose details are under gag order, paint a different picture,” they said.

 

In recent years Segev lived in Nigeria, where he first made contact with the Iranian Embassy in 2012, according to the Shin Bet.

 

The ex-minister met with his handlers twice in Iran and later in other countries, and they gave him a system for encrypting messages, the agency said.

 

Israel regards Iran as its bitterest enemy because of its nuclear work, its ballistic missile program and its support for other enemies of the Jewish state. Iranian officials have referred multiple times to Israel’s annihilation.

 

Segev, a native-born Israeli, was elected to parliament in 1992 and served as a minister from 1995 to 1996.

 

He practiced medicine before entering politics, but had his license revoked after being jailed for trying to smuggle 32,000 Ecstasy tablets into Israel from the Netherlands, Israeli media reported.

 

He was also convicted of credit card fraud for falsely claiming his card had gone missing, then using it to withdraw money, media reported.

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FG Agency too Broke, Orders Staff to Pay for ID Cards

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The Centre for Satellite Technology Development, one of the centres under the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) has reportedly directed members of staff to personally fund the production of identity cards due to “paucity of funds”.

 

In a circular with ref number: CSTD/ADM/41, dated May 21, 2018, signed by Shuaibu A.O, Deputy Director Admin and Finance, on behalf of Dr. Spencer Onuh, Director of the centre, reads: “I am directed to inform all staff of CSTD that the centre is no longer in a good financial position to fund the production of Staff Identity Cards.

 

“In view of the above, all staff are advised to personally fund the cost production of their staff identity cards through AP&D (Admin) till further notice.

“This is for your information and strict compliance please.

“Thank you.”

 

Centre for Satellite Technology Development, has less than 500 staff member.

 

According to Gbenga Omole, a printer at the Area 10 shopping complex in Abuja: “It costs N200 to produce a plastic identity card, but if you want to produce up to 500 cards, then we can give you a discount.”

 

A staff of the centre who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that the practice of staff sponsoring their identity cards production had been in practice for over two years now.

 

The staff said: “This has been in practice for a long time.

 

“I have even made my ID Card myself.

 

“It is unbelievable because the centre does not have to produce ID cards for all staff but only for promoted staff.”

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Shell Tasks Contractors over Safety, Rewards Champions

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Peter Costello, vice president of Shell Companies in Nigeria (SCiN) and Gabon has charged contractors working for and with Shell Companies in Nigeria to prioritise safety and be relentless in discussing the challenges and dilemmas, noting that the international oil giant was poised to help improve safety performance throughout the energy industry.

 

“Safety is our top priority. Everyone who works for us, or with us, has an important part to play in making SCiN a safer place to work. We cannot succeed in isolation and we must share the challenges by building strong partnerships to further improve our safety culture,” Costello said at the 7th edition of annual SPDC JV Contractor CEO Safety Leadership Conference held in Lagos last week.

 

He added: “We expect our staff and contractors to comply with safety rules and regulations relevant to their work; to intervene to prevent unsafe conditions; and to respect fellow workers and the communities in which we work.”

 

In his remarks, Osagie Okunbor, managing director of The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) and Country Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria, described the annual event as an opportunity to share learnings and ensure alignment, common ground and shared commitments on Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) in Shell’s joint operations.

 

“We cannot be too careful with safety issues. Through engagement, we ensure that the right competence is in place and we create opportunities for our staff and contract staff to speak openly about dilemmas. The collaboration must be continually strengthened so as to make Shell a safety model in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.” Okunbor said, adding that SPDC “more than ever before, is committed to delivering energy responsibly and safely, with total prevention of harm to our employees, contractors, local communities and the environment.”

 

While setting the conference scene, Chidube Nnene-Anochie, general manager Safety and Environment of Shell Companies in Nigeria, said the two-day conference was informed by SCiN’s mission to constantly work in partnership with contractors, regulators, industry trade associations and professional bodies to share Shell’s global safety experience, standards and knowledge.

 

She said the conference had over the years helped to increase safety awareness among contractors working for SCiN particularly in the areas of safety hazards that are peculiar to oil exploration and production activities.

 

Highpoint of the conference was the presentation of the 2018 SCiN Safety Leadership Awards to contractors who have distinguished themselves as safety champions in the areas of personal, process and transport safety, among others.

 

The conference was attended by SCiN including the Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), Mr. Bayo Ojulari; Managing Director of Shell Nigeria Gas, Mr. Ed Ubong; and the CEOs and representatives of over 83 contractor companies.

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