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NCC affirms deployment of ICT systems crucial in curbing financial crimes

Dr. Aminu Maida, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of NCC

*Dr. Aminu Maida, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission, at a recent event in Lagos, explains  how robust Information and Communications Technology systems are critical for preventing, investigating financial crimes, or mitigating risks associated with virtual assets in financial markets in the country’s digital ecosystem

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has restated that robust Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems are critical for preventing and/or investigating financial crimes, or mitigating the risks associated with virtual assets in financial markets.

ConsumerConnect reports Dr. Aminu Maida, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of NCC, stated this in his speech delivered Tuesday, November 7, 2023, at the 11th Anniversary Lecture Series of RealNews Magazine held in Lagos

Dr. Maida said he was particulalrly pleased with the choice of the topic, “The Use of ICT in Curbing Financial Crimes”, in view of its very importance in the country’s digital ecosystem.

Represented at the event by Mr. Reuben Muoka, Director of Public Affairs (DPA) of the Commission, who made a presentation on the behalf of the EVC/CEO, the EVC/CEO described financial crimes as “criminal activities that involve transactions, abuse, misuse, deception, or manipulation of financial systems for personal gain.”

He noted these include a wide range of offences, such as Insider abuse, money Laundering, Terrorism Financing, Proliferation Financing, embezzlement, Fraud (e-fraud, Banking, securities, corporate, Intellectual Property), etc.

Socio-economic impact of financial crimes

In regard to the wide-ranging implications of such crimes on individual consumers, businesses and country, the Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC also explained that financial crimes do not only have a huge economic and social impact, but can also be linked to violent crimes that lead to loss of lives.

Maida stated: “These crimes threaten the integrity, trustworthiness, stability, security, safety, and future of an entity (Country, enterprise, individual).

“With the increasing adoption of digital technologies, the emergence of new technologies, and the often-transnational nature of these crimes, the scope of financial crimes has broadened and created further concerns.”

On strategic role of ICTs in curbing financial crimes

The telecoms sector regulatory Commission said stressed robust Information and Communications Technology systems are critical for preventing/investigating financial crimes or mitigating the risks associated with virtual assets in financial markets.

The EVC/CEO stated these ICT systems also facilitate compliance with established standards or regulations, they also provide a platform that allows the monitoring, tracing, and analysing of digital transactions in real-time.

According to him, ICT systems support as well secure data storage and encryption technologies, which are critical for safeguarding sensitive financial data.

“Technological advancements have significantly aided crime prevention and law enforcement agency performance,” said Maida.

As a further measure in addressing vulnerabilities in the digital space, the NCC Chief disclosed large datasets had been analysed, using advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning algorithms to look for trends that indicate criminal activity in the ecosystem.

He said: “Based on historical data and real-time intelligence, predictive police programs have arisen to foresee and prevent crimes.

“Digital forensics techniques have also proven useful in criminal investigations.”

The EVC/CEO noted that historically, a variety of legacy technologies have been used to combat crime over time.

He, however, noted that in more recent times, novel computer softwares and hardwares are being utilised to monitor individual transactions and communications for suspicious activity.

Maida equally cited anti-money laundering (AML) software uses algorithms to detect anomalous patterns in financial transactions that could suggest money laundering or other illegal activity.

In collaboration with the security apparatus, Maida stated further stated that law enforcement agencies are increasingly employing communication monitoring softwares to follow and analyse digital communications, such as emails, social media interactions, and instant messaging, in order to discover potential threats or illegal behaviour in cyberspace.

In terms of effectiveness of this approach, he said: “These technologies improve the ability to detect and prevent illegal digital activity.

Experience in Nigeria’s telecoms sector, by NCC

As regards the deployment of ICTs to combat financial crimes in the country’s digital space, the Executive Vice-Chairman said the Nigeria’s telecoms sector has grown significantly, resulting in massive amounts of data being generated on a daily basis.

“The advent of advanced data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) provides a gateway to identify suspicious digital patterns indicative of crime.

“Through partnerships with financial institutions data can be filtered to identify these suspicious patterns and nip them in the bud.

“These technologies provide real-time transaction monitoring, allowing for a proactive approach to crime prevention,” said he.

Deployment of NCC-Computer Security Incident Response Team, other ICT tools in ecosystem

As part of far-reaching efforts at tackling financial crimes in the digital ecosystem, Maida mentioned innovative solutions, such as Blockchain technology, instant payments, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, data analytics, regulatory technology solutions, and automated procedures are being deployed.

He further affirmed the use of technological tools had made it significantly easier to deal with financial crimes while building a long-term strategy for combating them in the ecosystem.

In terms of the Commission’s direct contribution to the national efforts against cyber cum financial crimes, the EVC/CEO noted the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) is a group of experts, (of which the Nigerian Communications Commission is part of) that handles security incidents that can affect the operations of organisations in the West African country’s ecosystem.

Among several other measures against financial crimes, Dr. Maida emphasised the application of digital forensics is a branch of forensic science that focuses on identifying, acquiring, processing, analysing, and reporting on data stored electronically.

Electronic evidence is related to criminal activities and can be admitted in the process of prosecuting offenders in law courts.

On verification of Biometrics, he disclosed the incorporation of biometric authentication into financial transactions represents a big step forward in fraud prevention.

He said, “the NCC makes certain that telecoms carriers follow strict biometric registration rules, which improves the accuracy and security of customer data and in turn financial transactions.”

Essence of data security and privacy in curbing e-crimes

Concerning the significance of data security and privacy in the use of ICT for crime prevention, the Executive Vice-Chairman of the Commission strong encryption and access controls ensure the security of critical information.

Strict respect for data privacy standards, such as the GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulation) in the European Union and the (NDPA) Nigerian Data Protection Act, aids in the preservation of trust in the use of ICT solutions for crime prevention, stated he.

According to Maida, potential concerns linked with the use of Information and Communication Technology to combat financial crime, including threats to cybersecurity. As ICT systems get more complex, so do cybercriminal activities.

He, however, added that criminal actors still take advantage of the inherent and emerging flaws identified in the ICT systems exploiting these flaws and causing harm.

In respect of false positives and algorithmic bias, Maida opined that excessive reliance on automated systems for crime detection “might result in false positives, in which innocent people or transactions are identified as suspects.”

The NCC EVC/CEO explained that based on the data on which they are taught, algorithms may exhibit biases, potentially leading to biased conclusions.

There is a need to enhance human capacity building, said the NCC CEO.

Maida stated: “Compliance officers continuously need to be kept abreast of emerging technologies and innovations, and develop requisite competences required to use these solutions.”

He equally, identified the issue of technological obsolescence as a challenge in combating financial crimes.

“As technology advances, ICT solutions must be constantly updated and adapted in order to tackle evolving financial crimes.

Funding issue: Due to the evolving nature of technologies, investing in ICT solutions can become a challenge especially where there is paucity of funds.

Adequate funding is required to ensure that the latest solutions are deployed, up to date and remain relevant.

“Other Areas of consideration: While ICT has transformed the fight against financial crime, there are still difficulties that must be addressed collaboratively,” said Maida.

For a more robust inclusion in bridging the existing the Digital Divide, the EVC/CEO said: “Access to ICT services is not equal for all parts of the population.

“The NCC is actively working to close the digital gap by pushing projects aimed at providing inexpensive and accessible ICT services to underprivileged communities.

This inclusion is critical in ensuring that all citizens have the tools they need to conduct financial transactions safely.”

He assured the stakeholders and digital consumers that the Commission will continue to invest “hugely in both Research and Development and in training its manpower on emerging innovations in the tech space.”

The NCC is also cultivating beneficial relationships with technology companies in Nigeria in this regard, Maida noted.

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