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Wednesday 18th May, 2022

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NCC, Stakeholders Highlight Benefits Of Blockchain To National Economy

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), stakeholders in the academia, the public sector and enthusiasts of technology for development, have deliberated on the benefits derivable from emerging technologies such as Blockchain, to advance the growth of the Nigerian economy.

At a recently-organised two-day workshop by the Commission, in collaboration with the Bureau of Public Sector Reforms (BPSR), stakeholders were in accord that through effective implementation of policies as expressed in guidelines, regulations and directions driven by the NCC, Blockchain could be a bedrock of economic innovation and growth.

The workshop, which took place in Abuja and focused on ‘’Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain) Ecosystem, Decentralisation and Adoption Methods’’, drew participants from financial institutions, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the academia, the Nigerian military, and paramilitary forces, the Nigerian Cyberwarfare Command, and the private sector.

The stakeholders, who spoke in turn at the workshop, acknowledged and profoundly appreciated the role of the NCC in engendering a dynamic digital regulatory environment, the remarkable contribution to the growth and development of novel and emerging technologies, and NCC’s adoption of adaptive mechanisms that have enhanced emerging technologies in Nigeria.

NCC’s Director, New Media and Information Security, Dr. Haru Al-Hassan, who delivered the opening speech at the event, on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said existing national digital economy frameworks such as the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), 2020-2030 instituted by the Federal Government as well as regulatory initiatives by the Commission, have been significant enablers of Blockchain and emerging technologies in the country.

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According to Al- Hassan, “good regulatory policies are the bedrock of innovation and growth and it is the aspiration of the Commission that Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs) otherwise known as Blockchain and other innovative technologies and services would continue to thrive and contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria.

The Director-General, BPSR, Dr. Dasuki Arabi, informed the audience that the Nigerian government was already making efforts, through a number of initiatives, to harmonise emerging technologies with the contemporary public service sector in a way that strengthens the efficiency of the public sector.

He also affirmed that Blockchain would be central in the implementation of the National e-Govt Masterplan.

The BPSR Chief Executive equally listed the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the Bank Verification Number (BVN), automation of enforcement activities of some agencies of the government, including the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), as well as automated performance measurement systems for public sector employees, as concrete examples of the utilisation of technology in the public sector.

Arabi asserted that Nigeria ranks third in Africa, in the use of telecommunications for public service delivery, coming behind South Africa and Egypt, and called on policymakers to ensure robust policy formulation that ensures improved digital literacy and increased automation in public service delivery.

Other speakers at the event included Dr. Abdul-kareem Oloyede of the University of Ilorin, Kwara State; Amaka Ukwueze and Vivian Okonkwo, both of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State, and Col. Romi Legha of the Indian High Commission.

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Oloyede, who clarified the difference between Blockchain and Bitcoin, stated that the former is the underlying technology used for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, adding that Blockchain could be utilised to minimise expenditure and expenses, speed up transactions, and improve data security for financial institutions, health care, and businesses.

Ukwueze particularly applauded the Commission for taking the lead in discussions on DLTs considering the fact that Nigeria does not have a clear-cut Blockchain policy yet, even though countries worldwide had begun integrating DLT as a central part of their business practices.

“The Republic of Malta, a southern European island country, located in the south-central region of the Mediterranean Sea, incorporated Blockchain into its digital and economic ecosystem. Also, China, Abu Dhabi, and Japan are instituting DLT-friendly regulations in their governance processes,” Ukwueze said.

Accordingly, Ukwueze urged the Federal Government to adopt Blockchain deployment actively, promote legal certainty for Blockchain applications, and provide a flexible and adaptive regulatory environment that fosters innovation.

Conclusively, Ukwueze stated that the “government’s regulatory enforcement processes must seek to encourage companies to be consumer-centric and ensure compliance.”

In her contribution to the discourse, Okonkwo said the adoption of Blockchain technology would be essential in documentation, archiving, cloud storage, identity management, and online education.

Additionally, Okonkwo declared that blockchain is a cost-effective method of optimising the quality of the educational administrative processes and equally a cost-effective application that could improve service delivery across the nation.

The DLT, such as Blockchain, DAG, Hashgraph, Holochain, and Tempo (Radix), is a digital system for recording transactions of assets at multiple places simultaneously.

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The key features of DLT include immutability (once written, it is extremely difficult to alter), and peer-to-peer sharing, in the sense that the ledger is shared among peers while there is no central ownership.

 

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Mandiant Investigating Cyber Intrusions By Russian Foreign Intels

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Cyber investigators at Mandiant say they’re actively responding to more than a dozen live intrusions by Russian foreign intelligence services aimed at diplomats, military computers, defense contractors, and other targets, according to a Bloomberg report.

Mandiant is a security company that responds to breaches worldwide and says it works with more than 75 of America’s 100 highest-revenue companies.

Its update comes amid repeated Biden administration warnings that Russia is considering cyberattacks against critical US infrastructure.

One reason the Russian attacks aren’t making headlines is that, according to Mandiant’s findings, the actual number of them is roughly in line with normal levels. What’s changed recently is the focus.

As the world reacts to Russia’s invasion, Germany, Turkey and the UK are obvious targets for Russian spies who are desperate to eavesdrop on diplomats’ discussions about their own national positions and for any insight into military support, John Hultquist, Mandiant’s vice president for intelligence analysis, told Bloomberg.

“They want to know what they’re thinking,” he said.

Mandiant has identified Russians in “multiple” networks since February and is in the process of booting hackers out, he said, without being more specific.

Kevin Mandia, a former US Air Force officer who founded the company, which is now being bought by Google for $5.4 billion, added that suspected Russian cybercriminals are using ransomware to hit organizations “that you would call parts of or important to critical infrastructure.”

But overall all this activity—both ransomware and espionage—appears to be “the normal amount” and “the same as usual” out of Russia, he added.

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Nearly three months into the invasion, assessments of how to think of Russian activity in cyberspace remain many and various.

The head of the UK’s eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, suggested last week that the concept of a cyberwar was perhaps “overhyped.”

Paul Nakasone, the army general who leads US Cyber Command, warned earlier this month that Russian cyberattacks aren’t yet “done” and that “this idea that nothing has happened is not right.”

Rob Joyce, the NSA’s director of cybersecurity, told a conference last week that ransomware attacks are “actually down,” in part because the impact of sweeping economic sanctions has made it harder for them to operate.

Ukraine has reported more than three times as many cyberattacks since the war began as in the same period last year.

An analysis released Tuesday by Ukrainian authorities indicated Moscow might have “already used up all their available resources for waging cyberattacks.”

Russian planners may not have even turned their attention to developing larger hacks targeting the US and others until after the failure of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s quick-win strategy to take Kyiv became clear, several days into his war on Ukraine, Hultquist said, adding that major cyber-espionage campaigns take months to plan.

“We have to be patient because this is not over,” he said.

As for longer-term solutions, Mandia said he thinks the best way to help prevent future attacks is to show that countries are ready to identify perpetrators.

That’s exactly what the US and Europe did last week when they pointed the finger at Russia for a cyberattack against Viasat modems at the onset of its Ukraine invasion.

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Mandia says he finds recognizing the patterns of an intrusion as easy as reading a children’s book, and that he’s never seen a good false flag operation, in which one nation masquerades as another.

“I’ve always felt attributions are important to change behaviors; hold the nations accountable,” he said. That is also a prerequisite for imposing any official response, such as sanctions.

There is no question, he says, that if you have no risks or repercussions, “It’s just gonna go on forever.” Moscow has consistently denied involvement in cyber espionage.

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Beware As NCC Warns That Hackers Can Unlock, Steal Your Vehicles

…Warns of vulnerability to new Android trojan apps

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has alerted telecom consumers and members of the public on an ongoing cyber-vulnerability that allows a nearby hacker to unlock vehicles, start their engines wirelessly and make away with the cars.

The Nigerian telecom regulator said in a statement signed by its Director, Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde that the fact that car remotes are categorized short range devices that make use of radio frequency (RF) to lock and unlock cars informed the need for the Commission to alert the general public on this emergent danger, where hackers take advantage to unlock and start a compromised car.

A latest advisory released by the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT), the Cybersecurity Centre for the telecom sector established by the NCC, showed that “the vulnerability is a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack or, more specifically, a replay attack in which an attacker intercepts the RF signals normally sent from a remote key fob to the car, manipulates these signals, and re-sends them later to unlock the car at will.

“With this latest type of cyber-attack, it is also possible to manipulate the captured commands and re-transmit them to achieve a different outcome altogether.

“Multiple researchers disclosed a vulnerability, which is said to be used by a nearby attacker to unlock some Honda and Acura car models and start their engines wirelessly. The attack consists of a threat actor capturing the radio frequency (RF) signals sent from your key fob to the car and resending these signals to take control of your car’s remote keyless entry system,” the advisory stated emphatically.

However, the NCC-CSIRT, in the advisory, has offered some precautionary measures or solutions that can be adopted by car owners to prevent falling victim to the attack.

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According to the cyber-alert unit of the Commission, “When affected, the only mitigation is to reset your key fob at the dealership. Besides, the affected car manufacturer may provide a security mechanism that generates fresh codes for each authentication request, this makes it difficult for an attacker to ‘replay’ the codes thereafter. Additionally, vulnerable car users should store their key fobs in signal-blocking ’Faraday pouches’ when not in use.”

Importantly, car owners in the stated categories are advised to choose Passive Keyless Entry (PKE) as opposed to Remote Keyless Entry (RKE), which would make it harder for an attacker to read the signal due to the fact that criminals would need to be at close proximity to carry out their nefarious acts.

The PKE is an automotive security system that operates automatically when the user is in proximity to the vehicle, unlocking the door on approach or when the door handle is pulled, and also locking it when the user walks away or touches the car on exit.

The RKE system, on the other hand, represents the standard solution for conveniently locking and unlocking a vehicle’s doors and luggage compartment by remote control.

In a related advisory, the NCC, based on another detection by CSIRT, is informing the general public about the resurgence of Joker Trojan-Infected Android Apps on Google Play Store.

The NCC said this arose due to the activities of criminals who intentionally download legitimate apps from the Play Store, modify them by embedding the Trojan malware and then uploading the app back to the Play Store with a new name.

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The malicious payload is only activated once the apps go live on the Play Store, which enables the apps to scale through Google’s strict evaluation process. Once installed, these apps request for permissions that once granted, enable the apps to have access to critical functions such as text messages and notifications.

As a consequence, a compromised device will subscribe unwitting users to premium services, billing them for services that do not exist. A device like this can also be used to commit Short Messaging Service (SMS) fraud while the owner is unaware.

It can click on online ads automatically and even use SMS One Time password (OTPs) to secretly approve payments. Without checking bank statements, the user will be unaware that he or she has subscribed to an online service. Other actions, such as stealing text messages, contacts, and other device data, are also possible.

To avoid falling victim to the manipulation of hackers deploying Joker Trojan-Infected Android Apps, NCC is advising Android users to avoid downloading unnecessary apps or installing apps from unofficial sources.

The NCC also advised telecom consumers to ensure that apps installed from the Google Play Store are heavily scrutinized by reading reviews, assessing the developers, perusing the terms of use and only granting the necessary permissions.

The NCC, therefore, recommends that unauthorised transactions be checked against any installed app, and specially advised that any apps not in use should be deleted while users are also advised to ensure that a device is always patched and updated to the latest software.

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Spire Data Partners With Krista Soft

–To Provide AI-Driven Intelligent Automation To Enterprises In MEA

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Spire Data, an emerging leader in data analytics and governance in the Middle East and Africa region, has partnered with Krista Software, a leading AI-led intelligent automation solution provider.

The partnership will see “Krista”, Krista Software’s AI-led automation platform being delivered through Spire’s big data portfolio to enterprise customers for automating business processes, improving efficiency, and reducing costs.

Krista is a modern intelligent automation platform designed to easily leverage existing IT assets and SaaS apps in automated business workflows.

Krista’s unique approach enables business process owners to quickly build new automation without having to wait for expensive IT resources as creating automation in Krista is as simple as describing a conversation between people and apps.

Tausif Sayyed, Head of Business at Spire Data, said, “There’s a growing need for organisations to find a balance between reducing operational costs while increasing productivity.

“We are excited to partner with Krista Software to help achieve this by orchestrating people, apps, and AI with their world-class intelligent automation technology.

“By combining Spire Data’s capabilities with Krista’s technology, we will offer a highly efficient method to deploy AI organization-wide and across several functions.”

“The market is ripe for enterprise-wide adoption of automation in the MEA region,” said Kiran Karri, VP of APJ and MEA regions at Krista Software.

“Krista is perfectly suited for diverse and complex business environments that customers in MEA have, and together with Spire, we will alleviate their automation challenges.”

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