Federal Government Says Nigeria Recorded ‘Astronomical Increase’ in Cyber Attacks During 2023 Elections

Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy

In the run-up to the 2023 General Elections, threat intelligence revealed an astronomical increase in cyber threats to Nigerian cyberspace with threats to public websites and portals skyrocketing from an average of 1,550,000 daily to 6,997,277 on presidential election day, according to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy.

Mr. Uwa Sulaiman, Spokesperson to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, said in a statement on March 14, 2023 that the situation prompted the Minister to direct parastatals under the supervision of the Ministry to enhance their round-the-clock monitoring of the networks and traffic for potential attacks from February 24 to 27, 2023.

According to him, the parastatals, in line with the Ministry’s mandate to ensure adequate protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace to a level that citizens will have confidence in digital services as well as in its efforts to support the initiatives of securing the Nigerian cyberspace, had previously established Cybersecurity Centres, namely the National Information Technology (NITDA)’s Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team (CERRT), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)’s Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT), and Galaxy Backbone (GBB)’s Security Operations Centre (SOC).

Mr. Sulaiman said the cybersecurity centres were established between 2020 and 2022 in accordance with the Minister’s policy directives and had been “monitoring Nigerian cyberspace for potential threats and taking appropriate actions to mitigate them, both individually and collectively as well as in collaboration with other stakeholders.”

He added that on February 24, 2023, the Minister also inaugurated the Ministerial Standing Committee on Advisory Role for the Protection of Nigerian Cyberspace and ICT Infrastructure, which is chaired by the Board Chairman of NCC with the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of NCC, NITDA and GBB as members.

The committee is charged, among others, with the following responsibilities:

  • Monitoring of telecommunication infrastructure for the successful conduct of credible, free, fair, and transparent elections;
  • Developing and implementing plans to enhance the resilience of critical digital infrastructure against cyber threats;
  • Designing procedures and using technologies to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber attacks, as well as developing the ability to recover from any damage that is done quickly;
  • Developing a comprehensive risk assessment, analyzing the nation’s current cybersecurity capabilities, and identifying gaps that need to be addressed; and
  • Providing professional advice to the Government on the effective utilization of digital technologies in the conduct of the 2023 General Elections.

Mr. Sulaiman said the Committee’s activity started on February 24 and ended on February 28 and that during the period, “a series of hacking attempts were recorded, including Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), email and IPS attacks, SSH Login Attempts, Brute force Injection attempts, Path Traversal, Detection Evasion, and Forceful Browsing.”

According to him, a total of 12,988,978 attacks were recorded, originating from both within and outside Nigeria.

Mr. Sulaiman explained that the cybersecurity denters successfully blocked the attacks and/or escalated them to the relevant institutions for appropriate action.

He said the parastatals under the supervision of the Ministry have played a crucial role in providing the enabling environment for the successful conduct of a credible, free, fair, and transparent election and expressed the Minister’s commendation to all “stakeholders in the digital economy ecosystem for their support that resulted into this unprecedented success.”

Mr. Sulaiman added that the Minister “hopes that lessons learned during the process will be put to effective use in subsequent elections.”