In an era dominated by digital transformation, the ramifications of insufficient awareness regarding data privacy are disproportionately impacting female professionals and celebrities in Nigeria. Beyond the personal security implications, the lack of awareness is giving rise to significant professional disparities. A recent incident involving the hacking of Abike Dabiri-Erewa’s official Twitter account sheds light on the escalating threats faced by women in positions of influence. Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairperson for the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM), experienced another cyber attack on June 15, 2023, when her Twitter account was hacked by malicious actors aiming to disseminate false information. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities faced by prominent female figures. The public was duly warned to disregard any messages from the compromised account until normalcy could be restored.
The landscape of data breaches in Nigeria is evolving rapidly, as indicated by a report from the cybersecurity firm Surfshark. In the first quarter of 2023 alone, data breaches in the country surged by 64%, with a staggering 82,000 reported cases between January and March. This marked increase from the 50,000 cases reported in the previous quarter of 2022 paints a concerning picture. Nigeria, ranking 32nd globally in the number of data breaches, reveals a digital terrain where individuals live much of their lives on social media platforms. While anecdotes of security breaches are common, few are actively taking security precautions. The experience of Oreoluwa Alao, an agriculturist and writer, highlights the persistent threat. Following the theft of her phone, she encountered an attempted security breach on her email account. Fortunately, her robust security measures thwarted the attempt, but not everyone is as fortunate.
Survey reveals alarming lack of data privacy awareness among females.
Further, a comprehensive survey conducted in June 2023 sheds light on the extent of the problem. In Ibadan North and Lagelu local government areas of Oyo State, 45% of female professionals between the ages of 25 and 50 were found to be unaware of data privacy, while 1% had no understanding of the concept. This lack of awareness is particularly pronounced in urban centers, emphasizing the urgent need for education and awareness campaigns. The impact of this lack of awareness on data privacy is far-reaching, as explained by Oluwaleke Oni, a data analyst and IT expert. Uninformed individuals, including female professionals, may inadvertently disclose sensitive information online, becoming vulnerable to fraud, phishing attempts, or data breaches. The consequences can range from compromised personal and professional data to financial loss, reputational damage, and even identity theft.
The survey also revealed instances where victims reported security breaches to law enforcement but received little assistance. One respondent shared her experience of reporting a fraud amounting to almost ₦500,000 in 2014/2015, which, despite months of investigation, yielded no results. This highlights a critical gap in addressing cybercrime and protecting victims. Beyond financial implications, the emotional toll on victims is significant. Several respondents reported psychological and emotional distress, and the compromise of personal integrity due to these security breaches. Additionally, the survey uncovered cases of unsolicited advertisements resulting from internet activities, adding another layer to the challenges faced by female professionals. The prevalence of social media usage among female professionals aged 25 to 50 is evident, with Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram being the most commonly utilized platforms. Motivations for using these platforms vary, encompassing personal and professional reasons, from celebration and present mood to business promotion and awareness creation.
Experts Advocate Privacy Rights Awareness Amid Rising Digital Threats”
Jesutofunmi Robison, a Master’s student at the University of Ibadan, shared her account of a hacked Instagram and Facebook linked accounts. Implementing two-factor verification helped her regain control, emphasizing the importance of proactive security measures. Oni raised concerns about gender-based targeting and discrimination, emphasizing that lack of awareness makes female professionals more susceptible to online harassment and targeted attacks. David Afolayan, CEO at GIS Konsult, Ibadan, stressed the need for individuals to be aware of their privacy rights, especially in the digital age. He highlighted the subtle ways applications collect and utilize user data for targeted advertising, emphasizing the value of data and the need for users to demand compensation for the use of their personal information.
Afolayan cautioned against geo-tagging, which can inadvertently reveal users’ locations, posing a risk to personal security. He urged Nigerians to exercise caution and avoid engaging with online scammers. He also acknowledged the specific targeting of women, underscoring the importance of heightened vigilance. In the realm of policy and governance, respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s efforts to secure citizens in cyberspace. Over half of the respondents felt that the government had not done enough, calling for comprehensive policies, regulations, awareness programs, and stringent measures against cybercrime perpetrators.
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Dr. Hammajam Adamu, Head of Research for Nigeria Data Protection Commission, emphasized the need for all Nigerians, especially women, to prioritize data privacy. He highlighted the increased visibility of women online and the potential exploitation of pictures and impersonation. Adamu affirmed the commitment of the commission to enforce data protection laws and hold perpetrators accountable. The consequences of insufficient awareness extend beyond personal security to encompass professional and emotional well-being. The government, industry stakeholders, and individuals alike must collaborate to address this pressing issue through education, policy development, and stringent enforcement measures. Only through a collective effort can Nigeria mitigate the growing threats posed by the digital age and protect its citizens in the ever-evolving landscape of cyberspace.