InterviewTOP 20 CEO's of the Decade

It’s futile to think anyone can stop cybercrime -Digital Encode Directors

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We had an exclusive interview with the duo of Dr Adewale Obadare (Chief Operating Officer) and Dr Oluseyi Akindeinde (Chief Technology Officer) of Digital Encode. The directors explained that no one can stop cybercrime, as it is a $5 trillion worth industry. Excerpt.

The climate has changed with the coronavirus pandemic. How has Digital Encode fared?

Dr. Wale – The coronavirus is a disruption to businesses. The reason we are still here is because we have a founding principle, which we have stuck to since we commenced business. We have over 20 staff. The principle is that every year, we attend a strategy retreat and at the session, we plan for the New Year.

Dr. Seyi – When we started, we agreed we will take care of our staff.  Some quoted companies think about the shareholders first. We take care of our staff first. They have also been taking care of our business as well. 

Digital Encode has the Data Protection Compliance certification. What does it mean?

The apex body that is responsible for the regulation of data protection and privacy, National Information Technology Development Agency [NITDA], required that specialized organisations that have the knowledge of data protection and privacy should undergo rigorous requirements under NITDA before becoming a Data Protection Compliance [DPCO].

It means as a business you are responsible to work with organisations and help them to put in place process, structure and procedure around data protection and privacy. Right now, we are working with many organisations to prepare them for the data protection and privacy protocol.

What is the compliance level of Nigerian business with the Data Protection and Privacy?

Dr. Wale – Data protection and privacy are still nascent in Nigeria. Look at the financial sector, the banks have grown. They have done so much in cybersecurity. Data privacy is the legal part. The protection is the technical part. That is what all the banks are doing. The privacy part means that any data that I share with any institution must be used for its purpose. That institution is obligated to protect my data when using it for obligated purposes. It is a dual responsibility for both organizations.

There are many things for companies to do to be compliant through NITDA. NITDA has given the deadline, which is July. Organisations are responding and working with Data Compliance Organisations [DCOs] in the country to ensure that things work well. We need to be careful. What most companies are doing is filing. It is not the same thing as compliance. You need to look at our environment to make sure that we have all the requirements.

As a company, before you engage a DPCO you need to check your data privacy and protection. You must engage in a data readiness assessment. During that period you will know where you are. Are you good or average? This helps you to know where to improve. It is beyond documentation. Check your environment. Ensure that you are doing the right thing. Put in place the culture of data privacy and protection.

Dr. Seyi

Social media is here to stay. Every time there is a disruptive system, others must build on it. So, we have the internet. Social media is built on the internet. It is taking many people out of circulation. It is also bringing others into circulation. Many politicians are using social media to send information. This interview could have been held via Zoom or another platform.

The business dynamics has changed. As a B2B firm, we leverage the power of social media. It is easy to reach many people. In 2003, when we started the business, our marketing was done via the traditional method. We used newspapers, radio and fliers. A handbill’s reach cannot be measured. You don’t know how many people read the message. You cannot tell if the handbills were distributed or not.

On the other hand, on LinkedIn, we know the demography of those who viewed our posts. Businesses can tailor their marketing efforts, business development strategy and service offerings through social media. Now, we use social media for staff recruitment. We no longer place traditional advertisements. Social media is helping some experts to make money. 

The payment companies also employ social media influencers to engage customers and attract patronage. Technology is here to stay. We have to use it effectively in a positive way. Anyway, people are using technology for different reasons. Some people use it to clone different social media accounts. The truth is that technology and social media will not defraud people. It is people that will defraud people.

How can the federal government strengthen existing cyber laws?

Dr. Wale – As a company, we have created institutional awareness for the Nigerian environment in the past years. There is a proliferation of the internet. The next buzz is digitization and automation. Many people and businesses are embracing the digital space. This will attract cybersecurity challenges. Technology enables every aspect of our life. As you leverage the power of technology, it comes with risks. You need safety measures when using technology.

The internet is a public place. Protect yourself. Install antivirus in your gadgets. Install a licensed antivirus to protect those gadgets. Do not install antivirus downloaded from the internet. A licensed antivirus will protect your gadgets. Cybersecurity is a big subject. It can be seen from different perspectives. It affects an individual, a business and the nation. On an individual level, protect your internet protocol.

In terms of technology, there are specifics. A verified account does not mean it is authenticated. The verification means it is Barack Obama’s account. It is his identification. This is different from authentication. Beyond identifying yourself, without a verified account, you need a two-fact-authentication. It is something you know, something that you have and something you have had together.

You have a password. You have a token. They are on all social media accounts. Build immunity around yourself in the public space. If you are working from home because of the Covid-19, work through the Virtual Private Network. These are technical controls that are part of cyber hygiene. Nobody can stop cybercrime. It’s an exercise in futility to think that you can stop cybercrime. There is a report that says that by 2025, the industry will be around $5 trillion.

The hackers know where the money is. What happened in Dubai concerning Hushpuppy is an example. The youth now have a sense of entitlement. They do not believe in the concept of hard work. What to do is to create measures and controls to curb cybercrime.

Before now, Nigeria had no cyber law. But now we have a cyber-law. There is a need for massive capacity development among the lawyers and judges. If a scammer steals $40 million a judge sentences him to a-three month imprisonment, it motivates the youth to commit worse cyber-crime.  The judges need to consider the impact of the cyber-crime. People are dying because they have been fleeced. Cybercrime is a matter of life and death. We need to enforce the law. To enforce the law, enforcement agents need more training and capacity building on cybercrime.

Blockchain technology has become a buzzword. Please shed light on this technology

Dr. Seyi – Blockchain technology has not been adopted because people don’t understand it. It’s not a virtual currency. It is not a cryptocurrency. It is analogous to the internet. At the advent of the internet, people did not understand it. Even till now some people still don’t understand what the internet does. The man who built the Blockchain knew it would not work unless they lay something else on it. That it is the reason we have cryptocurrency. That’s the first application on the Blockchain.

In technology, there is what is called infrastructure inversion. On the road, you think about bridges and other structures. With the Blockchain technology, you can do business with anybody. But you cannot experience hacking. The major problem around Blockchain is awareness and knowledge gap.

Blockchain will take businesses away. Before, we used to buy a CD; not anymore. The same thing will happen. People are running from the adoption of the blockchain because they think it will take away their jobs. During this pandemic, MasterCard, PayPal, Visa and Microsoft are now enabling Blockchain technology because you cannot argue with a fact. You can only argue with beliefs and opinions.

Nigerian institutions should first disrupt themselves. There are some Nigerian banks that are still thinking about Blockchain technology. Even the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN] has not taken a decision on it. When the internet came to Nigeria, it took many companies time before they plugged into it. They wondered why they place their server on the internet. But it is not about placing your server on the internet. It is about placing your business on the internet.

Technology will make you money. It will save you money. It will give you a competitive advantage. If it is not doing any of those things, you can’t call it technology. How can you detect a drug is fake? If it has the National Agency for Food, Drug, Administration and Control [NAFDAC] number on its package. But NAFDAC, as an organisation, can adopt technology, which the drug manufacturers would adopt.

Conducting an internet banking transaction is like sending an email. You have not moved value. You have only sent a message.  Mobile banking is like a messaging system just like an email. An email can boomerang. Also, banking transactions can fail. That is why when the protocol of the Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System [NIBSS] is down, you cannot activate any transaction because you are not moving value; you are pushing messages. So, the financial system is a messaging system, whether it is a switch, MasterCard or visa.

But when you use the Blockchain, do you know what it means to move a virtual asset that leaves your phone? If I take your picture and send it to your phone, I will still have that picture on my phone. If I send music to you, I will still have a file copy of the music on my phone. But it is not like that for money.

Someone created a virtual technology where value can be moved.  If you think about technology, you would find a use for blockchain technology. We engage in knowledge sharing and awareness sessions for clients. We can also use it to vote during an election. But such things can never fly in Nigeria because it cannot be rigged.  Even the person who set it up doesn’t have the final say on the system.

Digital Encode’s CTO and COO have been nominated as Outstanding Cyber Security Experts. What does this mean to the company?

Dr. Wale – When we receive an award, it authenticates our core values. It tells us that society is experiencing our impact. It places more responsibility on us. If our core value is appreciated, it means that we have to do more. We know we want to be the number one technology company in Africa.

This mandate is motivating us. All the glory goes to the almighty God. What this award is telling us is that we have conquered this decade. And we are fully prepared by the grace of God to face the next decade through offering total quality services to the clients we serve.

Dr. Seyi

When we set up the business years ago, we didn’t know that we are going to be celebrated like this. To whom much is given, much is expected.

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