Experts and top Nigerian government officials have said at least N150 billion will be lost to cyber criminals if they eventually carry out their plan to launch a massive robbery attack on the country this year.
Many Nigerians were jolted two weeks ago when the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) raised the alarm of an impending cyber-attack on banks and some other key establishments in the country.
The agency in charge of IT regulations in the country said it had intercepted plans by hackers to wreak havoc which could make its financial institutions lose billions of naira to the cyber heist.
But the banks are not the only targeted institution. NITDA said the cyber criminals or hackers are also targeting health institutions and other government agencies. And it could be very soon or anytime within the year, according to a statement signed by the agency's Director General, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami.
Dr Pantami however said the agency was already working to counter the hackers. He also added that there was need for all stakeholders to take urgent and solid precautionary measures.
Dr Pantami said the agency's Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team (CERRT), in conjunction with other industry stakeholders had already intercepted the plans by the hackers.
Speaking with Daily Trust in Abuja, a top government official who is also an expert in cyber security, said if the hackers or the cyber criminals succeeded in launching the attacks, financial institutions, multinationals and many MDAs in the country may have their data taken over and at least N150 billion may be lost.
The official, who pleaded anonymity because he was not cleared to talk to the media on the issue, added that apart from monetary loss, documents and data may also be seized and damaged by the criminals.
In 2016, he said, Nigeria lost $450m to cyber-attacks alone and the trend has been on the rise since then.
According to him, a total of about 3,500 cyber-attacks were launched on the country in 2017, 75% of which were successful, which led to a loss of about $500 million.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, said Nigeria was losing 0.08 of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to cybercrimes and the figure might have risen because a large number of incidents were undetected or unreported.
"Available statistics put the cost of cybercrime globally at over $700 billion per year, and it is projected to rise to about $2 trillion by 2019, due to the rapid digitization of consumer lives and company records," he said adding that "the number of incidents in 2016 grew by 38% as against the number reported in 2015."
Shittu said the prevalence of electronic commerce and online malls was giving cybercriminals opportunity to attack unsuspecting Nigerians.
He lamented the shortage of cyber security experts in Nigeria, warning that could expose the country to cyber danger.
He however said his ministry and Office of the National Security Adviser were already implementing the provisions in the Cybercrime Act 2015 to curtail the menace of cybercrimes
But an IT security expert, Mr Remi Afon, said to prevent cybercrimes, government should enact a data protection regulation which makes it compulsory on all organisations to put in place strong data protection strategy.
Mr Afon, who is the President of Cyber Security Experts Association of Nigeria (CSEAN), however said cyber-attacks at various times on super powers like the US, China and Russia have shown that no country has got the capacity to fully protect itself from cyber-attacks.
He, however advised government to prioritise its efforts and raise cyber security awareness across the country.