Microsoft 'lends security expertise' to Nigeria

No-one knows more about security than we do, says Microsoft's European president

Microsoft is to work with the Nigerian government to help tackle the problem of 419 email scams and other cybercrime originating from the African country.

Neil Holloway, the president of Microsoft for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the company will lend its "time, technology and resources" to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian organisation that tackles cybercrime.

Holloway told ZDNet UK that Microsoft is well-place to offer this advice as "there's no other commercial organisation that knows more about security from a technology perspective."
Nuhu Ribadu, the executive chairman of the EFCC, said in a speech at the Nigerian Embassy on Friday that it is essential to tackle the problem of email scams to improve Nigeria's reputation in the worldwide community.

"Millions of people all over the world can only link the country and her nationals to the infamous scam letter. Yet, only a tiny fraction of Nigerians through criminal abuse of technology gave rise to what we today know as '419' and other Nigerian variants of cybercrime, which have done unquantifiable damage to our country's image and credibility," said Ribadu in his speech.

The term 419 comes from the part of the Nigerian criminal code that relates to fraud. It begins with a message offering the recipient a very large sum of money in return for helping to move an even larger amount of cash out of a foreign bank account.

Anyone who expresses an interest is then told that they must first hand over a substantial amount of money to cover expenses such as banking fees and administrative costs.

Ribadu admitted that Nigeria has been slow to tackle the problem of scammers, but claimed that the country now accepts the gravity of the problem.

"Unfortunately we did not do anything for a long time. The problem dates back as far as the 80s and for close to seventeen or eighteen years it became normal, a way of life. In the last few years things have changed, especially with the establishment of the EFCC," said Ribadu.

The EFCC has recovered over $1bn from fraudsters, a "lot of it" from 419 related offences, Ribadu told ZDNet UK. At the moment it is pursuing around 50 legal cases against Internet scammers.

The organisation recently carried out a study in Lagos and found that up to 1000 people were involved in email fraud in the city, with the majority of it being carried out from Internet cafes. "The average number of scammers in every cybercafe is 20," said Ribadu.

EFCC is now turning its attention on Internet cafes, with the help of new legislation that allows the prosecution of anyone that helps scammers, including Internet cafe owners and ISPs.

To promote the campaign, Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has created a series of posters: