NCC — The Nigeria Communications Commission held its second Quarter Open Forum of the Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) in Lagos. The Open Forum which was an initiative if the commission was geared towards combating e-fraud on telecom platforms and building consumer confidence in the digital economy.
Stakeholders present all agreed on the need to improve confidence in the telecom sector as e-fraud has become a serious headache of the sectors with millions of capitals getting lost by both consumers and organizations; private and public.
Speaking at the event in Lagos, Prof Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the commission welcoming the stakeholders present thanked them for the privilege he has in standing before them to deliver the ICAF keynote address on Combating e-fraud on telecom platforms and building consumer confidence in the digital economy.
He explained that “as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of technology, we must address the growing concern of fraudulent activities in the digital realm and take proactive measures to safeguard the trust and confidence of consumers.”
“Digital technology offers Nigeria the opportunity to grow and diversify its economy from the overdependence on agriculture or oil and gas export proceeds. The launch of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020 – 2025 as well as the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020 – 2030 (NDEPS) attests to the fact that Nigeria is poised to join the comity of nations and become a global leader in transforming its economy into a digital one.”
“In recent years, Nigeria has witnessed remarkable growth in the digital economy, revolutionizing the way we communicate, transact, and conduct business. The telecom sector plays a pivotal role in enabling this digital transformation, providing the infrastructure and connectivity that fuel our interconnected world. However, with these advancements come new challenges, one of which is the rising tide of e-fraud and cybersecurity concerns.” He continued.
“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. These criminal activities may not only cause significant financial losses but also erode consumer trust in the digital ecosystem.”
“The NCC as the regulator of the communications sector has a crucial role to play in combatting e-fraud. We must establish comprehensive legal frameworks and standards that mandate sound security practices for telecom operators. The legal framework must focus on data protection, privacy and incident response, ensuring that operators are held accountable for any lapses in security on their respective networks. The NCC also type-approves communications equipment to ensure that they conform to global standards and are interoperable with various relevant technologies. In this regard, The Commission collaborates with Mobile Network Operators 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.”
Danbatta further stressed that, in accordance with the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, telecom operators have a responsibility 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.
“With the increasing uptake of digital financial services and the advent of disruptive technologies, the issue of cybersecurity has become increasingly important. Telecom operators must therefore 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.”
“There is also the concern about how personal data is collected, stored, shared and exploited. Fortunately, NDEPS 2020-2030 adequately addresses the protection of telecom consumers against the threats of cybercrime, encouraging them to embrace digital finance and supporting them to contribute to the Digital Economy. Pillar #6 of the NDEPS, which deals with soft infrastructure, has proven to be proactive. The soft infrastructure pillar focuses on strengthening public confidence in the use of digital technologies and participation in the Digital Economy. The pillar will address the importance of cybersecurity and other standards, frameworks, and guidelines that encourage citizens to embrace a digital culture. Data privacy and the deployment of technologies like the public key infrastructure are addressed in this pillar.”
“Recently, the Nigeria Data Protection Act 2023 was signed into law to provide a legal framework for the protection of personal information and the regulation of how personal information is processed, among other things. The NCC is also in the process of developing more elaborate Data Protection Regulations to ensure the protection and privacy of data in the Nigerian communications sector. It is important to mention that the Commission has issued the Consumer Code of Practice Regulations 2007 which among other things, provides for the protection of consumer information.”
“Law Enforcement Agencies must also collaborate closely with telecom operators and regulatory bodies to investigate and prosecute e-fraud perpetrators. Enhanced coordination, information sharing, and dedicated cybercrime units 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.”
“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.”
“However, combatting e-fraud is not just the responsibility of industry stakeholders and authorities. Consumers too, must be active participants in this battle against e-fraud. Building consumer awareness and promoting digital literacy is crucial to empowering individuals to protect themselves. Telecom operators should educate their customers about potential risks, provide guidance on secure online practices, and offer user-friendly tools to monitor and manage their accounts. Regular communication with customers, promptly addressing their concerns, and providing timely updates on security issues are vital in establishing trust. To build consumer confidence in the Digital Economy, we must emphasize transparency and accountability. Telecom operators should be transparent about their security measures, privacy policies, and incident response mechanisms. Collaboration with third-party security firms and independent audits can also help validate the integrity of telecom platforms.”
In his conclusion, Danbatta resolved that, combatting e-fraud on telecom platforms and building consumer confidence in the digital economy requires a collective effort. Telecom operators, regulatory bodies, law enforcement agencies, and consumers must collaborate, each fulfilling their respective responsibilities. By investing in robust security infrastructure, implementing stringent protocols, promoting awareness, and fostering innovation, we can create a safer digital ecosystem that inspires trust and enables the full potential of the digital economy.
Also at the event, Mazi Akpa E. Emeka, ICAF Chairman, who added that, the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA 2003) generally provides for the protection and promotion of interests of Consumers including Differently Abled Persons and the Elderly. Pursuant to the NCA 2003, the Commission, driven by its Consumer-centric initiatives to ensure fair treatment as well as an acceptable Quality of Experience for consumers of ICT products and services, established the Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF).
“ICAF is not completely independent of the Commission but has been established as part of the Commissions strategy to achieve its mandate for protection and promotion of the interests of Consumers against unfair practices; including but not limited to matters relating to tariffs and charges for the availability of quality communications services, equipment and facilities.”
“Fraud has escalated as digital adoption has increased. The situation requires that organizations simultaneously combat fraud and provide customers with a seamless digital experience.”
“Digital adoption leapfrogged a decade in days during the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating the shift to digital and multichannel client service that began in the 2010s. The pandemic-driven boost to e-commerce is estimated to have exceeded $200 billion in 2020 and 2021.”
“Increased digital adoption has enabled new forms of fraudulent activity and amplified the importance of effective fraud management for promoting growth and meeting customers’ increasing expectations for digital experiences. Although most companies have improved their digital user interface and experience, many have struggled to effectively enhance fraud controls without impairing the client experience.” ICAF Chairman concluded.
Alkasim Abubakar Umar, NCC ‘s Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau noted that, in recent years, the growth of the telecommunications sector in Nigeria has been remarkable. With increasing access to mobile phones and internet connectivity, we have witnessed a surge in digital transactions, making our lives more convenient and efficient.
According to him, Alkasim Abubakar, “this rapid expansion has also opened new avenues for criminals to exploit unsuspecting individuals through various forms of electronic fraud. According to some reports, Nigerians have lost about N12.5 billion to financial crimes linked to the telecommunications industry in the past four (4) 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.”
“In Africa, the peril of cybercrimes recorded a massive rise in the first six months of 2022, “with phishing and scams hitting 438 percent and 174 percent in Kenya and Nigeria, respectively”, the Guardian Newspapers. reported on August 3, 2022.”
“E-fraud poses a significant threat to our society, as it undermines the trust and confidence in our digital platforms, hampers economic growth, and adversely impacts the lives of our citizens. As the regulatory authority responsible for overseeing the telecommunications industry, the NCC recognizes its duty to safeguard the interests of consumers and protect the integrity of our digital ecosystem.”
“The NCC remains committed to its mandate of creating an enabling environment for the sustainable growth of the telecommunications sector. To this end, we have already implemented several initiatives aimed at mitigating e-fraud risks. However, we understand that the battle against e-fraud requires constant adaptation and continuous improvement. Hence, this forum serves as a platform to share best practices, exchange knowledge, and explore innovative solutions to stay ahead of the ever-evolving tactics employed by fraudsters.” he concluded.