Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr.
Considering the unending spate of gross human rights violations perpetrated by officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, a few days ago, ordered the reorganisation of the affected police department. The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, complied immediately and set some necessary changes in motion. These included renaming SARS as Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad; appointing new FSARS commanders across the states; and modifying the unit’s standard operational guidelines and procedures.
To ensure that all FSARS personnel adhere to the updated code of conduct, as well as provide members of the public with an open channel for their feedback and complaints to the bureau, the force headquarters provided contact numbers and email addresses such as DIG department – firstname.lastname@example.org; IGP Monitoring Unit – email@example.com; Force Public Complaint Bureau – firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Take a closer look, these are all free email services being used by the nation’s police force in 2018. Isn’t this sad?
Senior Management of the Force Use Free Email for Official Purposes
The question is why should the Nigeria Police Force be using free and insecure email addresses? It is true that the official website of the Nigeria Police Force is www.npf.gov.ng and the Nigeria Police Force Portal is www.police.gov.ng, but it is surprising – no, shameful – that the Nigeria Police and all its major departments, as well as topmost officers do not use the .NG as the email addresses for official purposes.
To drive home this point, a visit to the Nigeria Police website will reveals that there is no SINGLE operational domain email available. There is, however, a PDF file (http://www.npf.gov.ng/images/AIGZONES%20AND%20COMMAND%20CPS.pdf) detailing the names, designations and contact numbers/emails of the most senior officers of the Police Management Team, (DIGs, AIGs and CP Commands). Not a single one of the 153 most senior officers of the Nigeria Police Force listed on the page has a secured .NG domain email! They all use free email service providers. Based on that PDF file, all the 60 Police Public Relations Officers of the Nigeria Police’s Force Public Relations Department also use free email accounts. This is unbelievable understanding that we are talking about the nation’s security apparatus.
Free Emails Are Not Ideal for Government Agencies
Why is the Nigeria security apparatus technologically and digitally backward? How could they use the .NG extension for their websites, but lack the digital sagacity to create .NG emails since they already have the website url? If Hillary Clinton’s email was reportedly hacked and sensitive state information stolen during her tenure as the US Secretary of State, why would the Nigerian government and foremost security agencies still be using free email services?
In case our security agencies want it in black and white: free emails, such as yahoo and gmail, among others, profile users and collect identifiable information about them to provide targeted ads and commercial purposes after analysing in very unimaginable ways. Google, for example, has always been in personal privacy trouble in the US and Europe, with heavy fines levied against it. The truth is that, free email providers automatically scan and index your messages to have an idea of your email content, then, serve you accompanying ads, based on common keywords in your emails.
“When people send and receive messages, using free e-mail services, they are sharing details about their interests, who their connections are and what their finances look like. That information might seem mundane on the surface, but when extracted and organised, it’s incredibly valuable to marketers and advertisers.” Heather Kelly of the CNN wrote.
If the above is true, then it indicates the Nigeria Police, as a foremost security agency, is an accident, waiting to happen, given that all members of its management team must have shared sensitive email information, potentially mined by the free email services they use. Free email services put data privacy outside the control of the user.
- NG should be the only domain name used by Government and all its agencies
The Presidency, with the help of lawmakers and other influencers, should champion an initiative and institutionalise a policy, mandating all public entities in the country, as well as persuade the private sector, to register and operate only the .NG domain name for their websites and email addresses which by the way can be provided by the Nigeria Internet Registration Association at no cost to that agency owing to an arrangement with National Information Technology Development Agency.
Although it is reported that the registered .NG domain name hit the 123,812 mark by July 2018, greater awareness and more government policy interventions are needed to promote the .NG brand and grow the numbers. Reports show that about 20,716 .NG domains were registered within the first seven months of 2018.
Enforcement of the Use of Local Data Centres
It is also crucial to examine the importance of data centres, which are facilities where huge network computer systems are housed. Data centres enable the distribution of Internet data and cloud computing services for all Internet technologies and users in various countries and intercontinental regions. There has to be a policy backed by law that should mandate all government data to be hosted locally in one of the many world-class data centres in the country.
It must be noted that the benefits of data centres are not limited to internet services; telecommunication companies and others rely on fibre-optic carriers, supported by data centres to interconnect the entire nation and beyond.
Data centres are also necessary for disaster recovery, cloud-based services, enterprise-class routing equipment, collocation and virtualisation, among others.
Local data centres help to guarantee national security and data privacy for all, while also promoting local content creation for entrepreneurial development.
In conclusion, I honestly wonder what email accounts are truly used in the Presidency even though I see personnel brandish @statehouse.gov.ng. How about the offices of National Security Adviser, Department of State Services or even National Assembly as a whole? Are they using secure email services hosted locally or is their data hosted somewhere in New York or Paris outside their jurisdiction?
These are very interesting times and I wonder if government, along with all her agencies, understands the implications of basic IT decisions, such as proper use and storage of sensitive national information?
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