As the world shifts towards remote work frameworks and online service delivery, the government of the United Kingdom has put pen to paper to provide a grant for Nigeria’s Cybersafe Foundation to engage in a cybersecurity awareness programme tagged “Safe Digital Community During the COVID-19 Project.”
The project is sponsored through the UK’s Prosperity Fund Digital Access Programme and is part of the country’s cyber risk alleviation support to the COVID-19 response of Nigeria. The grant agreement was signed between the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Cybersafe Foundation on September 7, and is geared towards arming SMES and digitally vulnerable groups with the requisite skills and knowledge base that will aid them promptly identify, detect and protect themselves against cyber threats.
The Safe Digital Community during the COVID-19 project was conceived after a joint advisory by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHC), the UK’s National Cybersecurity Centre (UK NCSC), and the Certified Information System Auditors (CISA) on the rising amount of cyber-attacks across the world. In its findings, the joint advisory discovered that malicious persons are taking advantage of vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic, mostly going after SMEs and providers of essential services including health facilities with phishing emails and scam proposals. They also found that individuals are being targetted with attacks disguised as COVID-19 relief packages and through the impersonation of known and trusted organisations. These attacks have led to confidential information and money theft from unsuspecting individuals.
According to UK officials, the project is targetted at benefiting a minimum of 1500 SMEs while upskilling about 4500 employers from various organisations on the essentials of cybersecurity. This, according to officials, will help boost business sustainability and cybersecurity frameworks.
Reacting to the Safe Digital Community Project, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, the UK’s deputy high commissioner in Lagos, noted that, “The COVID19 pandemic has forced both individuals and businesses to adapt to using more digital and online ways of working. This development also comes with an increased risk of cyber threats. So keeping the digital community safe has become even more essential.
“We are excited about this project and the impact it will have in keeping Nigerians and Nigerian SMEs safe online. The UK Government stands with Nigeria and will continue to support Nigeria as we collectively deal with this pandemic.”
For the digitally vulnerable groups including people with limited digital experience, the project will help raise their awareness in safe cyber hygiene, enhance their online security and enable a safer digital community.
In his own reaction, Idongesit Udoh, the head of the UK government’s Digital Access Programme and country lead, said: “This project is designed to achieve two key outcomes; the first is to equip SMEs with the knowledge and skills required to identify, protect, detect, defend, and respond to COVID-19 instigated cyber threats. The second is to increase cybersecurity awareness for the mass population, with special focus on digitally vulnerable groups and people with limited digital experience. “This cybersecurity project is one of the key COVID19 response projects demonstrating the UK Government’s continued support for Nigeria and its digital sector, recognising the tech ecosystem’s role in inclusive growth and development. It is also exciting that this grant agreement coincides with the 2020 London Tech Week, which showcases the UK as a global leader in tech.”
Confidence Staveley, the executive director and founder of CyberSafe Foundation, reacting to the partnership between her foundation and the UK government expressed her excitement at the prospect of the project. According to Stavely, “I am very excited about this project that is arguably one of Nigeria’s biggest Cyber Security education interventions yet, designed to support the businesses and individuals most digitally vulnerable to cyber-attacks within our community. Unlike big businesses, many SMEs in Nigeria lack the people, processes and technology required to defend against cyberattacks; and consequently are the worst prepared and worst hit. “This project will support at least 1500 SMEs with free cybersecurity training of their people and also educate over 10million Nigerians on Safe Cyber hygiene best practices in a novel and impactful way. This is a timely and much-needed intervention given the increased digital penetration and adverse cyber-crime activity in Nigeria,” she concluded.