The Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has said that public websites in Nigeria recorded over 6.9 million hacking attempts on the day of the last Presidential and National Assembly elections, February 25, 2023. 

According to him, this was a dramatic surge in attempted attacks on public websites, which stood around 1.5 million daily before the elections. 

The Minister disclosed this in a statement released on Tuesday, which was signed by his spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman. Pantami, however, said the threats were blocked through the efforts of the cybersecurity centres established by parastatals under the ministry and committee he set up a day before the election. 

According to him, in line with the Ministry’s mandate of securing the country’s cyberspace, the parastatals under the supervision of the Ministry have established Cybersecurity Centers, 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).  

He said these Centers were established between 2020 and 2022 and have 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. 

Increased threats: Highlighting the achievements of the committee he set up before the February 25 elections, Pantami said: 

  • “It is worth noting that in the run-up to the 2023 General Elections, threat intelligence revealed an astronomical increase in cyber threats to Nigerian cyberspace. Generally, threats to public websites and portals averaged around 1,550,000 daily. However, this skyrocketed to 6,997,277 on Presidential Election Day.” 

The Minister further disclosed that the threats increased to 12.9 million between February 24th and 28th when the cybersecurity committee worked. 

  • “The Committee’s activity started on 24th February 2023 and ended on 28th February 2023. During this 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. A total of 12,988,978 attacks were recorded, originating from both within and outside Nigeria. It is worth noting that the Centers successfully blocked these attacks and/or escalated them to the relevant institutions for appropriate action,” he said. 

Recall that on 24th February 2023, the Minister inaugurated the Ministerial Standing Committee on Advisory Role for the Protection of Nigerian Cyberspace and ICT Infrastructure. The Committee, chaired by the Board Chairman of NCC and with the CEOs of NCC, NITDA and GBB as members were charged with the following responsibilities, among others: 

  • 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. 

Ministry’s mandate: As part of its mandates, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is expected to ensure adequate protection of Nigeria’s cyberspace to a level that citizens will have confidence in digital services. This mandate aligns with the goals and objectives of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy for a Digital Nigeria (NDEPS).