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Saturday, July 10, 2021

How General Buhari populated VPN in Nigeria - ITREALMS

Features@ITREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news!
The ban on Twitter by the General Muhammadu Buhari, retired-led government, is a symptom of how not to respond to a ‘21st century communications’ tool which has triggered adoption of the Virtual Private Network (VPN), writes REMMY NWEKE.

That General Buhari’s Tweet:

When we hear that knowledge is power, it could pass for one of those sagastic statements associated with evolutions. One of such came with the recent tweet by the President of Nigeria; General Muhammadu Buhari (retired) which trended for the better part of week, June 1, 2021.
Buhari had tweeted via his handle @MBuhari: “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”

For the fact, the Nigerian civil war occurred between 1967 and 1970, orchestrated by the pogrom against the Ndigbo in the north with dead bodies sent to the East over an alleged coup led by Igbo soldiers and followed by counter coup which saw the murder of General Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi, the first Military Head of State of Nigeria and lack of commitment on the part of Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s Federal Government to implement the 3Rs - Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Reintegration; at the end of the war declared to be “no victor, no vanquished” the Buhari’s assertion was no doubt for the SouthEast populated by Ndigbo, to take note of.

Though, Twitter following outcry from Nigerian Tweeps, deleted General Buhari’s tweet claiming violation of rules. Obviously angered by this, the Nigeria government in retaliation suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria and even went ahead to ban Nigerians from using it with attempts to prosecute violators.

Suspension of Twitter:

At first, it came like a fantasy dream to learn that the Federal Government of Nigeria actually suspended Twitter, penultimate Friday, June 4, 2021.

For a lot of Nigerians and technology stakeholders and enthusiasts, the ban which preceded General Buhari’s tweet on dealing with Ndigbo on the language they will understand, was proclaimed on Twitter at about 4:53pm via the Twitter handle of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, @FMICNigeria which read “Press Release – FG Suspends @Twitter operations in Nigeria.”

As said by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in a press statement available to 
ITREALMS, "The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter in Nigeria." He also cited alleged persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria's corporate existence.

FG also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to commence the process of licensing all Over-The-Top (OTT) media services and social media operations in Nigeria.

Revolutionizing VPN in Nigeria:

With the proclamation to clampdown on Nigerians using Twitter after the supposed ban, and prosecute them, many protagonist came up with the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) to subvert the blockage after telcos where directed to suspend Twitter access to subscribers.

For some, interesting telecom subscribers could just switch proxy in their device settings. Some of the messages which trended on WhatsApp includes, “Guys No need for VPN. Open ur Twitter App. Go to settings, click on proxy. Enable HTTP proxy. Put 205.134.191.237 as ur proxy and 80 as ur port. Refresh ur Twitter and enjoy. This is 2021 not 1984.”

This kind of message brought to the fore some unknown VPN experts and enthusiasts, especially in Nigeria. One of such enthusiasts is a youngman who goes by name, Elechi, who claimed that using device proxy places one on more than danger list.

“Who exactly sets up a proxy server for Twitter?” he asked, stressing that both VPN and proxy servers basically mask your IP address with VPN doing more to encrypt your data, whereas proxy servers are opening you up for easy hacking of your devices. He posited that there are three known types of proxies; HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), SOCKS5 and Transparent proxy.

“Thus, SOCKS is an Internet protocol that exchanges network packets between a client and server through a proxy server. SOCKS5 optionally provides authentication so only authorized users may access a server, whereas a VPN connection masks and encrypts all Internet traffic to and from a device, a SOCKS5 proxy is application-specific. So while the VPN safely redirects all your traffic. With a SOCKS proxy you need to ensure that all the relevant software has the same SOCKS server defined to get consistent results.”

Notable is that the HTTP doesn't have an "s" which basically stands for secured, asserting that “Transparent proxies are the worst and you may not even know the kind of proxy you may have your opened the port of your device for,” he said, maintaining that proxy servers apart from slowing down the speed of your device are very dangerous; “You need to know where the server is located and need to be able to trust the source.”

Server consequences:

Governments, he said, in some parts of the world use proxies to surreptitiously collect data from devices and spy on citizens, noting, that when “you use a VPN app, for instance, you may already know the reputation of the providers and where their servers are located.”

He elucidated, those proxies are primarily set-up for only one kind of service or website, unlike VPN which offers multiple services. Hence, VPN apps are more in tune with the times than proxy.

For the executive director, Paradigm Initiative, Mr. Gbenga Sesan, “Yes, but it's very easy to block this proxy, that has now gone around a lot, from the telco end. VPN works better still.”

FG got worried:

Definitely worried over the number of Nigerians who may have migrated to VPN in the cause of their access over the unjustified ban on Twitter to still get connected with and on the microblogging site, to the extent that Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, turned to VPN expert over night, when he addressed some members of the National Assembly recently.

Hear him: “My advice to anybody using VPN to access Twitter is stop it, with VPN it exposes your entire data including your bank account. If you are using VPN and you think you are hurting Lai Muhammad, you are hurting yourself.”

The truth about what is VPN?
A virtual private network (VPN) is extended private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.

For experts at Norton, a virtual private network gives user an online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs, 
ITREALMS gathered, in other words mask user’s internet protocol (IP) address so their online actions are virtually untraceable. For them, most importantly is that VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) hotspot.

Why do you need a VPN service?

According to Norton experts, surfing the web or transacting on an unsecured Wi-Fi network means you could be exposing your private information and browsing habits. That’s why a virtual private network, better known as a VPN, should be a must for anyone concerned about their online security and privacy.

“Think about all the times you’ve been on the go, reading emails while in line at the coffee shop, or checking your bank account while waiting at the doctor’s office. Unless you were logged into a private Wi-Fi network that requires a password, any data transmitted during your online session could be vulnerable to eavesdropping by strangers using the same network.

“The encryption and anonymity that a VPN provides helps protect your online activities: sending emails, shopping online, or paying bills. VPNs also help keep your web browsing anonymous,” they said.

What the numbers are saying about VPN:

Statistically, ITREALMS gathered that the VPN industry is expected to reach $31.1 billion by end of 2021. In addition, its expected to record some 31 per cent of internet users worldwide have used a VPN service, just as 62 per cent of all VPN users are male and about 39 per cent of VPN users are between the ages of 16 and 24.

For instance, Elijah Bello, a programmer and web developer had told The Guardian, “I believe most IT-savvy guys won’t be moved because most of us have not been tweeting from Nigeria. We use a technology called VPN that simply fake your location, hence bypassing the ban. In the long run, this might be a blow on the Nigerian government and not Twitter.”

Equally, a lawyer activist, Modupe Odele, had cautioned against using free VPNs, alleging that this version of VPN could steal personal data. “Please folks be careful the VPNs you download to use. Some expose you to vulnerabilities. If you can afford a paid one, that’s usually a better option,” she tweeted penultimate Saturday.

“We advise all users of Twitter and other social media platforms in Nigeria to download virtual private networks (VPNs) to enable them continue to use the platforms for their economic survival and social and political engagements while we all push back on this draconian order by the Nigerian government,” a Nigerian civic tech organisation Paradigm Initiative said in a statement available to 
ITREALMS.

As at the time of going to press, 
ITREALMS gathered that trending “VPN in Nigeria” saw Ogun State leading in the top five with 100 per cent, followed by Oyo with 93, Lagos 61, Federal Capital Territory 36 and Rivers 30 in that order in Google Trending hierarchy. Just as statistics from search showed rise in the interest and download in VPN apps in Nigeria.

Cost implication for VPN:

Of course, for Nigerians the price is very important to them given the drastic dwindling economy and fabulous inflation in the last six years. ITREALMS gathered that though you may think that a free VPN is the best option, however, some VPN services may not cost you money, but you might “pay” indirectly, including being served frequent advertisements or having your personal information collected and sold to third parties.

Experts at Norton, warned that when compared paid versus free options, one may find that free VPNs lacks the most current or secure protocols, do not offer the highest bandwidth and connection speeds to free users, do not have a higher disconnection rate and may not have as many servers in as many countries globally in addition to lack of support services.

Executive recklessness:

For some concerned stakeholders, what the Twitter conspiracy should have been would be to look beyond the likely impact of the ban on the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) the managers of .NG string in domain names industry. With this ban, FG has invariably killed .NG and shown the world that there is no rule of law, leaving those of us .NG evangelists in the cold.

With this also, some opined that the FG should have approached a High Court, at least, for a warrant/order to carry out such a ban to show respect to democratic tenets. This, they argued would have paved the way for the government to literarily be acting on court order by way of asking a judge to grant an order restraining Twitter use in Nigeria. Any other thing, they opined, is “executive recklessness and a threat to a functional democracy.”

Conclusion:
Further, 
ITREALMS reports that there are many points to consider when one is choosing a VPN, hence its advisable to do your homework well to make certain you get the right information and right product eventually. Nonetheless, whichever provider you may choose, rest assured that a good VPN will provide more security, privacy, and anonymity online than a public Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) hotspot can, anytime any day.

Literally , the fortunate part of this ban on Twitter under the President, General Muhammadu Buhari, retired-led government, is that more Nigerians, especially the tech-savvy ones and good number of youth, got to know more about other routes to get on social media, mostly on VPN and its adaption in the country.

For some VPN marketers, more downloads please, whilst Twitter continues to negotiate with FG. Until then, the use of Twitter witnessed some decline. Yet for some, it’s time to think how to link their Twitter handles with other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, so that when they share content, it will still appear on their Twitter pages.

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