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Arms, ammunition can’t end insecurity – Prof Alese

Arms, ammunition can’t end insecurity – Prof Alese

Countries of the world that are besieged with violent crimes are seeking workable solutions to their challenges. In this interview with SUNMOLA OLOWOOKERE, a don at the Department of Cyber Security, Federal University of Technology, Akure FUTA, Prof. Boniface Kayode Alese highlighted the threat which failure by the government to embrace  Cyber security could pose to the Nigeria nation.

He spoke on the importance of Nigeria having a highly developed intelligence database to address the issue of insecurity. Excerpts:

How long have you been in the field of cyber security?

I have been in the field for roughly 21 years. I am a product of FUTA and I have been working here.

What is your assessment of security in Nigeria?

There is something we call paradigm shift in security, in those days, it was based on the ability to have certain equipments in form of machine guns, bombs, etc. It has now become more of information technology. There has been a paradigm shift in security. But since the coming of ICT, there have been a paradigm shift with the coming of internet.

Which period did information technology become popular in tackling security issue?

Around 80s and early 90s, in Nigeria and the world as a whole. Then there was a paradigm shift in security. Take for instance, in those days, when I was still very young, whenever a bank was moving a huge sum of money from the Central Bank to any branch, you would see bullion vans which are still being used now with heavy security. But today, someone can just sit at a corner with a laptop and transfer huge sums of money without anyone knowing, without any gun. These are the paradigm shift in recent time. In the last few years, I have been opportuned to attend workshops, seminars on cyber security. One common thing is that the Chiefs of Defense Staff and Service Chiefs of most advanced nations were always present. They even delivered papers. The security strength of a country is no more based on the amount of weapons they have but the intelligence ability. When we talk of intelligence, we are moving towards the area of cyber security. For instance, you have a troop, you know in FUTA, there are two gates, you can either come in through the South Gate or the North Gate and you know, there are enemies on the way, you now sent a message to a group “do not pass through South Gate” and an attacker is able to assess the message and removed the ‘do not’ leaving “pass through the South Gate”. No matter the weaponry, they will be disabled because they would have been caught off guard.

The only thing we talk about in Nigeria in terms of cyber intelligence is yahoo yahoo but let me tell you, yahoo yahoo is the least of cyber security problems we have in the world. Do you know why we haven’t appreciated the enormity of cyber security in Nigeria, most of our national infrastructure are yet to be leveraged on information technology. The banking sector and other critical infrastructure are yet to be leveraged on information technology. I have not heard of any other sector that is leveraged on information technology. When you get to another country; their transport, water, health all are leveraged on information technology. You can imagine, if you are in United Kingdom and you are inside the tube which is leveraged on information technology and somebody is able to hack the database and there is crisis underground inside the tube as everything is networked, then you will appreciate the importance of cyber security.

If you see yahoo yahoo as the least of Nigeria’s cyber problem, what other problems did you foresee?

That means you want me to go technical. Most of the yahoos we have just send scam messages. But do you know that the entire system of a nation can be brought down by a single cyber crime? For instance, the military base of a nation can be demobilized by a cyber crime? So can you appreciate what i’m saying? That’s why today as I talk with you, Federal University of Technology, Akure is one of the universities that have started cyber crime as a course of discipline.

In the world today, there are over 2.5 million vacancies in the cyber crime sector that have not been filled. And there is a projection that by 2021, there would be 8.5 million jobs in cyber security. So we are in dire need of professionals in that field because one thing is that as we make progress in the field of Information Technology, the challenge in cyber security will increase.

How popular is cyber security in Nigeria?

People are now coming into the profession and the current Executive Secretary of Nigeria University Commission NUC, Prof Rasheed, saw the need because he is a very exposed man to bring some professors together, including myself to develop a curriculum on cyber security and other related courses in Nigeria.

This is because it is high time we concentrated on things that are in high demand in our society. In Nigeria, we want to move towards leveraging everything on IT. Then the challenge will be more pronounced, cyber security threat is sure to be more obvious.

In tackling banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes in Nigeria and other countries of the world, scientists are said to have invented chip that could be placed under an individual’s skin and such a person’s location could be tracked in case of attack?

Yes. It is true. They exist. Even on your phone, there is something like a chip. A chip can also be installed inside a car to monitor it. It is also available for tracking human beings. Even a phone call can be tracked. All these are available options. You see, technology is advancing all over the world and Nigeria need to progress beyond the point it is now.

The location of kidnappers can be tracked as they are calling, making demands for ransom through tracking by these chips. Everything is built around the chips, either in your car, in the body the phones, cars or bodies. If our telecommunications industry is working the way it should, if they cooperate with security agencies and we have a good database, then we will be able to do an effective tracking. Like what the police is doing now; if I lose my phone and make a report, they will track it and recover it.

But do you know there are challenges and I don’t know where the challenges are emanating from. It is not that our security agencies are not working, it could be that we are not giving them enough support; either as individuals or as governments because we need to make the resources available to them while they too need to acquire the required expertise. The truth of the matter is that the government has to recruit more to boost its cyber intelligence gathering.

You mean all the security agencies…

Yes, they need to concentrate more on intelligence gathering and also train their officers in working along those lines. Like in the Nigeria Defense Academy, they have a department known as Cyber Security Intelligence. I remember that the Police University established in Kano state also has such a department.

Are you saying that it is already being studied in schools?

That is what I am saying. It is not being practised yet. That’s why they need support. And it must be backed up by political will to make it work. If the political will is not there, there will be problem. As technology is advancing so also is terrorism. About four years ago, I went to the United Kingdom. There was a terrorist attack in France, under 24 hours, they were apprehended. So also some Nigerians that went to rob in Dubai, they were caught within some hours. It was technology they used. In Nigeria, we must give our security agencies the needed and the right training.

You have been saying that they need equipment, expertise and training. If you are to rate them, what would be your assessment? Are you saying that they have not been employing intelligence gathering at all?

If they have been using it, it is not making the right impact. They are not living up to expectations. But output is also dependent on input. What I mean by the input they are not measuring up is the resources made available to them in terms of training and equipment. I want to see Nigeria’s military and police now getting more involved in cyber security.

Apart from the developed world, in the developing world such as Nigeria, is cyber security making waves?

Let me give you an instance, Rwandan is a country faced with genocide in 1994, fast forward to 2011, technology wise, it has really developed and it is known as the tech-hub of Africa today.

But in the developed world, everything is leveraged on IT.

Last week, Donald Trump announced that America was open to those who have the right skills. So if you have the right skills and you want to go to America, you will be given Visa. However, rather than exporting those skills that will help us develop, we need to harness them so that we too can develop.

This is part of the things we need in Nigeria to solve our problems; most especially our security problems.

Today, if the police wants to recruit, they should recruit graduates of Cyber Security. Fighting insecurity is beyond ammunition now. You can have the ammunition and weapon and they could be demobilized by cyber attack.

What is your advice to the government in addressing this issue?

In addressing this issue, the government should consult the right people. The federal government should also know that we have the intelligensia based in the academics. They should invite us to a meeting together with the security agents. Some officers in the NDA did their PhD in Cyber Security here at FUTA. They should not just be dumped in the university to lecture. This is because solving Nigeria’s problems is beyond acquiring ammunition. We need to be talking of intelligence gathering and this needs the right IT skills. The challenges are just starting. As the Yoruba adage, you want to live long and does not want to be visited with evil, you will have to choose one out of the two because long life comes with experience.

If we want to advance technologically, we must be ready for cyber security challenges. And the earlier we begin to prepare for those challenges, the better for us.

Are you aware that terrorists also make use of IT? There is something called steganography; it is an act of hiding the existence of a message. In those days when terrorists wanted to send a message, they will get  compact disc with videos of what you don’t expect terrorists to be watching; very nasty films. If it is a three hours film, the film will occupy the first one hour, twenty minutes, the message may be in the next ten minutes and the film will be in the remaining part so that nobody would suspect them.

So in a nutshell, you are saying that the government should bring together a think-tank consisting of those in the academics and security officers on the field?

Yes, the professors in the academics especially in cyber security and information technology along with the security agents.

And that fighting violent crimes is beyond ammunition.

Yes, the solution to the security problems of any nation today including Nigeria is beyond buying ammunition. I am not just saying this as an individual but as a professional who have sat at conferences and meetings with Chiefs of Defense Staff of other nations that are well developed such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Insurgency in the northern part of the country, how could it be tackled?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying ammunition are not important. I’m just saying that the issue could be better tackled. These insurgents go in and come out as they please and in spite of the chips we have been talking about; their location has not been discovered. And they are based somewhere around. Why have we not be able to locate where they are? Why have we not been able to locate their movements or their source of funds through which they buy ammunition?

I was in a state in the USA in 2014. A group was discovered to be sending money, huge sums of money through a particular widow. When it was investigated, they discovered that the widow was being used to finance terrorists in the state.

Which state was that?

It was Minneapolis. And the widow was tagged “Somalia widow”. So we need to know how the terrorists here are being financed. So if you block the source of their funding, to a large extent, you have crippled them.

How long have you been in the field of cyber security?

I have been in the field for roughly 21 years. I am a product of FUTA and I have been working here.

What is your assessment of security in Nigeria?

There is something we call paradigm shift in security, in those days, it was based on the ability to have certain equipments in form of machine guns, bombs, etc. It has now become more of information technology. There has been a paradigm shift in security. But since the coming of ICT, there have been a paradigm shift with the coming of internet.

Which period did information technology become popular in tackling security issue?

Around 80s and early 90s, in Nigeria and the world as a whole. Then there was a paradigm shift in security. Take for instance, in those days, when I was still very young, whenever a bank was moving a huge sum of money from the Central Bank to any branch, you would see bullion vans which are still being used now with heavy security. But today, someone can just sit at a corner with a laptop and transfer huge sums of money without anyone knowing, without any gun. These are the paradigm shift in recent time. In the last few years, I have been opportuned to attend workshops, seminars on cyber security. One common thing is that the Chiefs of Defense Staff and Service Chiefs of most advanced nations were always present. They even delivered papers. The security strength of a country is no more based on the amount of weapons they have but the intelligence ability. When we talk of intelligence, we are moving towards the area of cyber security. For instance, you have a troop, you know in FUTA, there are two gates, you can either come in through the South Gate or the North Gate and you know, there are enemies on the way, you now sent a message to a group “do not pass through South Gate” and an attacker is able to assess the message and removed the ‘do not’ leaving “pass through the South Gate”. No matter the weaponry, they will be disabled because they would have been caught off guard.

The only thing we talk about in Nigeria in terms of cyber intelligence is yahoo yahoo but let me tell you, yahoo yahoo is the least of cyber security problems we have in the world. Do you know why we haven’t appreciated the enormity of cyber security in Nigeria, most of our national infrastructure are yet to be leveraged on information technology. The banking sector and other critical infrastructure are yet to be leveraged on information technology. I have not heard of any other sector that is leveraged on information technology. When you get to another country; their transport, water, health all are leveraged on information technology. You can imagine, if you are in United Kingdom and you are inside the tube which is leveraged on information technology and somebody is able to hack the database and there is crisis underground inside the tube as everything is networked, then you will appreciate the importance of cyber security.

If you see yahoo yahoo as the least of Nigeria’s cyber problem, what other problems did you foresee?

That means you want me to go technical. Most of the yahoos we have just send scam messages. But do you know that the entire system of a nation can be brought down by a single cyber crime? For instance, the military base of a nation can be demobilized by a cyber crime? So can you appreciate what i’m saying? That’s why today as I talk with you, Federal University of Technology, Akure is one of the universities that have started cyber crime as a course of discipline.

In the world today, there are over 2.5 million vacancies in the cyber crime sector that have not been filled. And there is a projection that by 2021, there would be 8.5 million jobs in cyber security. So we are in dire need of professionals in that field because one thing is that as we make progress in the field of Information Technology, the challenge in cyber security will increase.

How popular is cyber security in Nigeria?

People are now coming into the profession and the current Executive Secretary of Nigeria University Commission NUC, Prof Rasheed, saw the need because he is a very exposed man to bring some professors together, including myself to develop a curriculum on cyber security and other related courses in Nigeria.

This is because it is high time we concentrated on things that are in high demand in our society. In Nigeria, we want to move towards leveraging everything on IT. Then the challenge will be more pronounced, cyber security threat is sure to be more obvious.

In tackling banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes in Nigeria and other countries of the world, scientists are said to have invented chip that could be placed under an individual’s skin and such a person’s location could be tracked in case of attack?

Yes. It is true. They exist. Even on your phone, there is something like a chip. A chip can also be installed inside a car to monitor it. It is also available for tracking human beings. Even a phone call can be tracked. All these are available options. You see, technology is advancing all over the world and Nigeria need to progress beyond the point it is now.

The location of kidnappers can be tracked as they are calling, making demands for ransom through tracking by these chips. Everything is built around the chips, either in your car, in the body the phones, cars or bodies. If our telecommunications industry is working the way it should, if they cooperate with security agencies and we have a good database, then we will be able to do an effective tracking. Like what the police is doing now; if I lose my phone and make a report, they will track it and recover it.

But do you know there are challenges and I don’t know where the challenges are emanating from. It is not that our security agencies are not working, it could be that we are not giving them enough support; either as individuals or as governments because we need to make the resources available to them while they too need to acquire the required expertise. The truth of the matter is that the government has to recruit more to boost its cyber intelligence gathering.

You mean all the security agencies…

Yes, they need to concentrate more on intelligence gathering and also train their officers in working along those lines. Like in the Nigeria Defense Academy, they have a department known as Cyber Security Intelligence. I remember that the Police University established in Kano state also has such a department.

Are you saying that it is already being studied in schools?

That is what I am saying. It is not being practised yet. That’s why they need support. And it must be backed up by political will to make it work. If the political will is not there, there will be problem. As technology is advancing so also is terrorism. About four years ago, I went to the United Kingdom. There was a terrorist attack in France, under 24 hours, they were apprehended. So also some Nigerians that went to rob in Dubai, they were caught within some hours. It was technology they used. In Nigeria, we must give our security agencies the needed and the right training.

You have been saying that they need equipment, expertise and training. If you are to rate them, what would be your assessment? Are you saying that they have not been employing intelligence gathering at all?

If they have been using it, it is not making the right impact. They are not living up to expectations. But output is also dependent on input. What I mean by the input they are not measuring up is the resources made available to them in terms of training and equipment. I want to see Nigeria’s military and police now getting more involved in cyber security.

Apart from the developed world, in the developing world such as Nigeria, is cyber security making waves?

Let me give you an instance, Rwandan is a country faced with genocide in 1994, fast forward to 2011, technology wise, it has really developed and it is known as the tech-hub of Africa today.

But in the developed world, everything is leveraged on IT.

Last week, Donald Trump announced that America was open to those who have the right skills. So if you have the right skills and you want to go to America, you will be given Visa. However, rather than exporting those skills that will help us develop, we need to harness them so that we too can develop.

This is part of the things we need in Nigeria to solve our problems; most especially our security problems.

Today, if the police wants to recruit, they should recruit graduates of Cyber Security. Fighting insecurity is beyond ammunition now. You can have the ammunition and weapon and they could be demobilized by cyber attack.

What is your advice to the government in addressing this issue?

In addressing this issue, the government should consult the right people. The federal government should also know that we have the intelligensia based in the academics. They should invite us to a meeting together with the security agents. Some officers in the NDA did their PhD in Cyber Security here at FUTA. They should not just be dumped in the university to lecture. This is because solving Nigeria’s problems is beyond acquiring ammunition. We need to be talking of intelligence gathering and this needs the right IT skills. The challenges are just starting. As the Yoruba adage, you want to live long and does not want to be visited with evil, you will have to choose one out of the two because long life comes with experience.

If we want to advance technologically, we must be ready for cyber security challenges. And the earlier we begin to prepare for those challenges, the better for us.

Are you aware that terrorists also make use of IT? There is something called steganography; it is an act of hiding the existence of a message. In those days when terrorists wanted to send a message, they will get  compact disc with videos of what you don’t expect terrorists to be watching; very nasty films. If it is a three hours film, the film will occupy the first one hour, twenty minutes, the message may be in the next ten minutes and the film will be in the remaining part so that nobody would suspect them.

So in a nutshell, you are saying that the government should bring together a think-tank consisting of those in the academics and security officers on the field?

Yes, the professors in the academics especially in cyber security and information technology along with the security agents.

And that fighting violent crimes is beyond ammunition.

Yes, the solution to the security problems of any nation today including Nigeria is beyond buying ammunition. I am not just saying this as an individual but as a professional who have sat at conferences and meetings with Chiefs of Defense Staff of other nations that are well developed such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Insurgency in the northern part of the country, how could it be tackled?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying ammunition are not important. I’m just saying that the issue could be better tackled. These insurgents go in and come out as they please and in spite of the chips we have been talking about; their location has not been discovered. And they are based somewhere around. Why have we not be able to locate where they are? Why have we not been able to locate their movements or their source of funds through which they buy ammunition?

I was in a state in the USA in 2014. A group was discovered to be sending money, huge sums of money through a particular widow. When it was investigated, they discovered that the widow was being used to finance terrorists in the state.

Which state was that?

It was Minneapolis. And the widow was tagged “Somalia widow”. So we need to know how the terrorists here are being financed. So if you block the source of their funding, to a large extent, you have crippled them.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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