Nigerian government blocked over 1.2m attempted cyber attacks during 2023 elections

Godfrey Elimian
…centre recorded more than 200 cyberattacks on election day, with that number sporadically increasing to 1.2 million the following day.
Nigeria Counters Over 1.2m attempted cyber attacks during 2023 elections
Nigeria Counters Over 1.2m attempted cyber attacks during 2023 elections

The Nigeria Information Technology and Shared Services provider, Galaxy Backbone Limited, says it countered over 1.2 million attempted cyber attacks during the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections on the 25th of February.

According to its Managing Director, Muhammad Abubakar, during a ministerial training for its Board members and Management Staff in Abuja with the theme: “positioning the Agency’s Team for Effective Management and Leadership in the 4th Industrial Revolution,” the centre recorded more than 200 cyberattacks on election day, with that number sporadically increasing to 1.2 million the following day while collation was going on.

This was amidst the widespread failures and challenges encountered by the IReV, which resulted in its ability to transmit the presidential election results online, forcing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit the results offline to its portal for viewers to access just as the elections came to a close.

Nigeria Counters Over 1.2m attempted cyber attacks during 2023 elections
Muhammad Abubakar, Managing Director GBL

“Because of the elections, we came up with a business community and Cyberspace protection that is supposed to run for one month and at least one week after the Gubernatorial elections. On election day alone, cyber-attacks cost $4b and how did we get to that, We have a reference, a single cyber attack cost $18,000 as of December 2023,”

During the elections we countered more than 200 hundred attempted attacks And the next day it geometrically increased to about 1.2 million and all were blocked from our own end

He said

However, the Managing Director did not disclose if the IReV infrastructure’s whole or partial downtime was caused by the cyberattacks or the numerous efforts it repelled.

Nonetheless, he pointed out that the agency established a business community and Cyberspace protection committee to ensure Nigeria’s cyberspace is secure for the 2023 general election while acknowledging its accomplishments.

In his remarks, the Minster of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami said that the training evaluated and recalibrated Galaxy Blackbone LImited regarding Leadership and Management for optimal outputs.

“Training is key when it comes to improving our performance, and at the same time, training is key when it comes to our self-evaluation, self-judgement, and self-assessment”, the minister said

Read also: INEC explains slow updates of 2023 election results on IReV

Cyber attacks and the Nigeria elections

Cyber attacks have become a familiar foe to democratic elections globally. In fact, in the last elections in the U.S., a few state and local governments appeared to be hit by a relatively rudimentary cyberattack that periodically made public websites unreachable.

Dr Isa Ali Pantami
Dr Isa Ali Pantami

It is understandable why President Muhammadu Buhari established a committee, with Prof. Mohammad Abubakar, CEO of Galaxy Backbone, as a key member, to advise on the best steps to take to protect the country’s ICT infrastructure and cyberspace from potential attacks, particularly during the general election.

The committee was to coordinate computer security centres in the ICT industry in collaboration with other relevant institutions towards intercepting potential cyber-attack threats that were envisaged to happen.

But even with this setup, as voting concluded in various polling locations across the country, IReV, the electoral office and infrastructure set up to receive transferred election results online in real-time directly from polling places, had a downtime.

A significant issue in the election process was the INEC staff’s inability to submit the results of the presidential elections right away after counting. There were, however, few transmissions of the parliamentary results that were successful.

Although INEC explained that these malfunctions were not because cybercriminals attempted to attack the IReV infrastructure, INEC has been majorly faulted for the whole process and its inability to conduct a peaceful and transparent process.

There have also been widespread calls for the election to be re-conducted given the many failures recorded by the tech meant to make the process free and credible.

Read also: “We have intensified the review of the technology” -INEC says BVAS will run optimally for March 11 elections

In training, Professor Abubakar assured that to boost its capacity further to ensure a secured cyberspace in Nigeria, GBB has “to invest in Security Management by  Development of new SOC, acquired New certifications (e.g. ISO 9001, 22301) and maintenance of previous certifications Establishment of Security Command Centre.”


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