Recent announcement that Starcomms shut 46 fraudsters, and unveiled anti-spam mechanism, is worthy of emulation among Internet Service Providers, reports REMMY NWEKE.
NOWADAYS, Internet access has become a major thirst and tool for the Internet savvy public. This tool in whatever way we may look at it has its positive and negative sides to the coin.
Two sides to the coin
On one side, Internet has liberated the much needed information chain by bringing people together in seconds as far as information dissemination and exchange are concerned, despite the distance whatsoever.
On the other hand, Internet has also become a thorn in the flesh, as many atrocities are now being perfected by fraudsters, who have since the massive acceptance of Internet in the 90s gone online, mostly in developing countries of the world.
Nigeria as case study
A case at hand is the Nigerian nation, whose heightened fraudsters’ related reports globally have forced the government to come up with some measures to checkmate this trend.
For instance, Section 419 (A) of the Nigerian Criminal Code drawn from the nation’s constitution of 1992, which stipulates among other things that ‘Any person who by any false pretence or by means of any other fraud obtains credit for himself or any other person; in incurring any debt or liability or by means of an entry in a debtor and creditor account between the person giving and the person receiving credit, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for three years’.
Proliferation of online fraud
Before then, fraudsters specialize in the use of telefax machines to make contacts with their potential victims, most of which are targeted at foreigners, of which locally they were referred to as ‘Number people’.
Until late 90s when the Internet penetration continued to surge with the anticipated false millennium bug, these sets of ‘Number people’, always flaunting their ill-gotten wealth began to diversify into deploying Internet for their so called ‘business’. Nigeria no doubt got some ugly mentions with the Internet revolution.
Hence, on coming to power in 1999, one big obstacle before the Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime was to clean the mess created by these online fraudsters, while it was spreading like a wild fire.
So came the setting up of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and subsequently due to growing pressures from friendly international communities, the Presidency inaugurated a presidential committee on Anti-Online fraud with members spread across the law enforcement, Information and Communication Technology sector.
Subsequently, this committee proposed the birth of a National Working Group on Cyber Crime (NWGC), currently co-ordinated by a seasoned solicitor, Mr. Basil Udotia and co-chaired by the Ministers of Justice cum Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Bayo Ojo, and that of Science and Technology, Prof. Turner Isoun.
One cardinal point in the assignment of NWGC is to come up with a draft law to combat the menace associated with Internet fraud, to boost electronic commerce and instill confidence on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.
It was to also straighten the nation’s resolve to battle this monster, called online fraud.
Although investigations by our correspondent revealed that this crime seems to have taken increasingly new turn, as fraudsters perfect their act daily, by going to the extent of using the photograph, signature and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) number of the apex bank’s governor, Prof. Charles Soludo in their fraudulent endeavour.
Evidence abounds that the recent Katrina Hurricane, suffered the same fate as its online help website was adversely duplicated over a good number of times for the purposes of enticing donors to these fake websites.
Also, there exist, what experts described as proxy websites which offer people the opportunity to convert their electronic mails and even website addresses known as Internet domain addresses into proxy and their identity remain unknown to the larger society.
The above has been heavily associated with open source metaphor, which means that the propelling software is not being charged for, if used. Opposite of which is simply ‘Microsoft’, which must be paid for before usage.
From one Internet Service Providers to the cafes, these fraudulent agents abound and with the banning recently by the Association of Telephone and Café Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), some of these fraudsters hitherto use café as their abode, mostly for night browsing. Now they are opening personal offices at their homes to thrive the trade and the offer of Internet Service as an added value service to the subscribers of Private Telephone Operators (PTOs) in the country.
The Starcomms' example
Hence, the recent shutting of its Internet access to 46 suspected fraudsters and unveiling of anti-spam mechanism in Lagos by Starcomms Limited, is a welcomed development.
Online spam is a terminology used to describe unsolicited electronic mails and that has been the methodology of ‘419ners’ in the system, mostly when they are shopping for potential victims.
But the coming of Starcomms’ mechanism to determine spam traffic would reduce fraudulent activities on its Internet service among subscribers.
With this, Starcomms assumed the first Private Telecommunication Operator (PTO) in the country to ever introduce such an online anti-fraud mechanism among the existing Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Marketing Director at Starcomms, Mr. Omar Lababidi, while introducing the mechanism, said, it would enhance the efforts aimed at reducing fraud on its internet service from this part of the world.
The mechanism, he said, was installed in co-operation with Huawei Technologies to monitor and tackle fraudulent use of the Internet.
This effort, which include creation of database of fraudulent accounts which will be reported to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and other relevant law enforcement agencies, would equally afford the operator the chance to device means of warning the entire subscriber chain that spammers and fraudsters will not be tolerated on the network.
Mr. Lababidi also alerted that anybody found engaging in Internet fraud would automatically forego all rights and privileges as a customer on the Starcomms.
He further said that his company has, so far, shut down 46 spam and fraud users on the Starcomms account, adding that the gesture is aimed at protecting the innocent and improving the nation’s image in the international community.
Reacting to this, newly elected President of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, told ITREALMS it is a welcome development.
“I think it is good as ISP to make it public. It is a smart way of sustaining its business and shunning intending spammers, because if eventually it’s network becomes notorious or key suspect of most spam origin, it could be blocked by other networks” he said.
Other ISPs, Mr. Ajayi said, may have the same strategy but are not making it open, but the idea to proclaim it is very good to fore warn whoever intends involving himself on such activities on the network. He was sure other ISPs also have similar strategy to block spammers.
This step by Starcomms also has been described as pioneer among its peers in the bid to safe guide its network and subscribers alike.
One good thing is that the operator was very clear when it said that anybody caught instantly losses the right of a customer on the network.
Another good thing is that if the company’s figure of the affected fraudsters would be forwarded to relevant government agencies, which is a plus.
So, it is very important for other ISPs in the country to follow the Starcomms example, mostly as the unified licensing regime has less than one month to take off, by investing into this kind of solution.Therefore, by heeding this call, the nation’s image would not only get better, it would show some seriousness on the need to collectively battle this sickness, which is invertible in this century.