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Ransom Demand in CryptoCurrency Responsible for the high-rise of Ransomware Virus…Dr. Seyi Akindeinde

Dr. Seyi Akindeinde. CTO, Digital Encode
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In the continuation of our Top 20 CEO’s Exclusive Interview series our guest is The Chief Technology Officer of Digital Encode, Dr Seyi Akindeinde, spoke about the menace of cryptoCurrency and ways to control it. Excerpts.  


CryptoCurrency fraud is on the increase. Why is this so?

Anything new usually attracts the attention of cybercriminals, especially if it is digital. Why do I say that? Let us go back to when the internet was new. Many people did not understand that with a computer they could connect to the internet. The cybercriminals were the first to get a hang of it. In addition, do you remember the time most people lack email addresses? The cybercriminals already had email addresses. They were using their emails for bad activities. When the internet came alive, it made pornography popular because it could be online and everybody could see it. It was unregulated because then the government did not understand the technology well enough to be able to safeguard it. Fast forward to cryptocurrency. Now cryptocurrency is not just about spreading information. It can move tangible value. When there is no regulation, when there is no understanding, the first people that will latch onto such novelty are scammers.

Dr. Seyi Akindeinde with Tayo Adewusi

 Is that why crypto is a hotbed for scammers?

There are all sorts of swindles on the prowl because the scammer knows that the other persons who are operating it do not know it well enough to be able to guard its usage. The regulators do not understand it well enough to be able to regulate it. It was when the regulators understood the process of the internet that they said ‘oh-for-you-to-be-a-cyber-cafe-operator-you-need-to-have-a-license’. Therefore, I cannot be in my house now and become an ISP. The same thing is happening around cryptocurrency. Now people have seen that you can bypass all sorts of regulations, you can bypass all sorts of licences and all sorts of rules just by using cryptocurrency. That is why we have the proliferation of frauds. When you have new technology that people do not understand, these are the early warning signs. That is why people are now losing billions of dollars to fraudsters. Therefore, we need to address that big elephant in the room and start to regulate the use of cryptocurrency.

 Cryptocurrency is pseudo-anonymous. How would you regulate it?

Yes, it is pseudo-anonymous on the blockchain. It is traceable too. Because for you to have cryptocurrency, which is what many people do not understand, cryptocurrency does not just fall on you. There is a process to obtaining it. There is a process to having it. For you to have cryptocurrency you must have an account on an exchange. Therefore, when you have an account on an exchange it amounts to a cryptocurrency wallet. Therefore, it is not completely pseudo. If you want to trace all transactions on cryptocurrency, it is perfectly possible. These are what they need to do to curtail the activities of the scammers. Because as they are obtaining the cryptocurrencies they are sending it to a wallet. When you have cryptocurrency, you cannot spend it in a market. You have to convert it to the naira or dollar currency. Then, at the point of conversion, you can know who is even behind it. The scammers are traceable but we need regulation.

 Cryptocurrency allows users the free will to transact business. Why are you advocating for regulation?  

The idea of the Internet was to bypass regulation. Then people perceived that the government-owned the media in the world. Therefore, if I have a website I can pass the information that I want and my audience will read it. Similarly, when the internet came, remember then there was Napster. These people used the internet to share music without necessarily paying for music downloads. The industry was losing loyalty. Here is what happened. Because of the regulation, you cannot share music now. You have to go through a channel. That is regulation. That is why we have privacy laws, data protection, intellectual property laws, and all that. I cannot put anyone’s music or video online and claim it as mine. I have to go through the proper channels. The same thing applies to cryptocurrency. The goal was to bypass some of the stringent government controls where it is impossible to move funds across borders. At the end of the day, you still need an intermediary to convert crypto. It is like the Bureau de Change (BDC). As a foreigner, if you come to Nigeria with some dollars you need to convert your dollars to the naira. The BDC would do the conversion for you. To operate a BDC, you need a license. The BDC have records of who sells and buys the dollar. The federal government needs to do the same thing for cryptocurrency. Thankfully, the blockchain policy is out. It says you are free to build on this platform. What we need to do is to regulate the players.

Dr. Seyi Akindeinde. CTO Digital Encode

  How does this relate to the proliferation of ransomware attacks?  

Our lives are moving onto the digital platform. We are transacting online. We use mobile phones. We have computers connected to the Internet. Ransomware is not new. It has been there for a while. It is now popular with cryptocurrency. Back then during a kidnap case, you pay a ransom through a bank account and then you can trace the receiver of the ransom. However, with the advent of cryptocurrency, ransomware has skyrocketed because now ransom is demanded in cryptocurrency. That is why we need to control it. Once you have bought a new phone, computer, and laptop install antivirus, malware detection and safeguard your digital assets.

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