14th May, 2012
There is no denying the fact that many computer-literate Nigerians have seen horrible advances in cyber-crime. Since the use of the internet technology became widespread, many computer-literate Nigerians have been virtually helpless against the changing shape of cyber-crime.
That many of us are familiar with the pattern of cyber-crime that are daily perpetrated by some heartless ones among us is no more news. Rather, the news as at the time of writing this piece is that some internet scammers have started invading the privacy of many a facebook subscriber by disguising to be the original subscriber to a hacked facebook account, and in the process begin to make spurious requests from friends on the hacked account. This, no doubt, has put millions of facebook subscribers in a bad light before their numerous friends.
Suffice it to say that I was compelled to write this piece when I signed into my facebook account only to discover that it has been hacked into by a scammer. On May 6, 2012 I decided to check the inbox of my email at a Cybercafe. On getting there, I signed in only to be captivated by a mail sent to me by facebook team. The part of content of the mail goes thus: “Hi Isaac, you recently changed your Facebook password on 5 May 2012 at 05:47. As a security precaution, this notification has been sent to all email addresses associated with your account. If you have not changed your password, your account may have been the victim of a phishing scam. Please follow the link to regain control over your account.”
Surprisingly, for more many months I have not bothered to change my facebook password. I then asked myself why I became the recipient of such notification. However, I impetuously followed the link provided on the received mail as instructed, and luckily for me I was able to recover my account which ordinarily would have been impossible to access since the scammer has crookedly changed the password and taken control of my facebook account. It is pertinent to mention at this juncture that I was only able to recover the account having answered a secret question based on the information I provided years back during my registration to facebook. I was given the option of answering the secret question or identifying the photos of some of the friends I have on my facebook account.
Be that as it may, the scammer not only hijacked my facebook account, he went ahead to chat with some of my friends thereby making some spurious requests which I found uncomfortable and embarrassing.
The most embarrassing chat he made, which was revealed through the chat history or thread, was the one he made with a long-standing friend of mine who he requested to send him recharge card of an unspecified amount. When I meticulously read between the lines of the chat that was made available on the chat box, I was overwhelmed with goose pimples. Instantly, I felt like urinating. The hairs on my body literarily stood on end. From my discovery, he chatted with some of my friends at random asking for what I would not have asked for. Given the level of damage he must have done to the relationships I built with these friends over the years, I screamed in pidgin English “Dem don kill me ooo” to the consternation of others who were around the Cybercafe. Before anyone could say “Jack Robinson” I started “in-boxing” all those the scammer interacted with by making them understand that my facebook account has been hacked into.
A friend I know since year 2006 when I ran a programme at a particular university in the country, who incidentally is my facebook friend, while chatting with the scammer, asked “Have you collected your certificate?”, the scammer replied “cool”, “cool”, “cool”. No doubt, he sold himself out through his grammatical inaccuracy and uncoordinated thoughts. This no doubt made my friend to initiate a call to confirm if I was truly the one chatting with him but unfortunately he could not reach me until I discovered what happened and called him myself.
No doubt, the harrowing experience the scammer subjected me to was very embarrassing and stressful in the sense that I left what I ought to have done at that particular time, and began to make frantic efforts toward the recovery of my facebook account, and at the same time sending rebuttals to all the friends he interacted with.
The question now is, “How can one avoid falling into the evil hands of scammers?” First and foremost, subscribers to emails and social media sites should always ensure they are completely signed out after browsing the internet before literarily jumping off from their seats. In the attempt to answer this question, I logged in to the website; www.scfederal.org and the following is the result I got from the website on how password can be safeguarded. First and foremost, never give your password to anyone, especially if prompted by an email or phone request. Secondly, never write it down. Thirdly, make it hard to guess, so that others won’t be able to easily obtain it by making a good guess. Fourthly, do not use common dictionary terms, pets’ names, kids’ names, your own name, or the word password. Another helpful hint is that password should be made in such a way that it can easily be remembered. Also, it is advisable to use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols as you would see in the following paragraph.
Create an acrostic from the letters of a phrase. For example, “I have too many passwords to remember!” could be a password of “Ih2Mp2r!”. If you have to change the password with some frequency, use the password phrase and the numbers representing the month and year, “Ih2Mp2r!1210” Also, make up a nonsense word from pronounceable syllables, for example: a. NUKARGO (new-car-go) b. BLUSKYDAY (blue-sky-day). Also use special characters such as #, $, and @ with numbers to form pronounceable passwords.
There is no denying the fact that a great percentage of the youths have become fascinated with internet application not because of its mind-building benefit but because it is replete with mind-bending graphical presentation of violence, sex, nudity and unrestrained video and audio applications.
It is not ill-advised to urge the government to put necessary campaign mechanism in place in order to specifically educate or sensitise the youths on the advantages and disadvantages of using the internet. Internet is very useful, but it can also be abused.
From my observation, the internet is already under serious abuse, particularly, by the youths. Efforts should be made to nip this ugly trend in the bud.
•Asabor wrote in from Lagos. E-mail: [email protected]