Vice President Atiku Abubakar has debunked a trending online audio recording which suggested he was planning to rig the 2023 general elections. He is the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party vying for Office as Nigeria’s next President.
In a separate statement issued by Centre for Democracy and Development, the viral audio content has been described as 97% deep fake following detailed analysis. A technology expert, Dr. Ndubuisi Ekekwe has equally identified the use of artificial intelligence in cloning the voices in that viral recording (not published here) to mimic the sound and intonation of victims for mischief.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has expressed commitment towards ensuring that accreditation, result transmission and collation exercises for Nigeria’s elections are entirely driven by electronic transmission over wide area networks directly to designated INEC data hub.
The pre-eminent concern for all headline stakeholders presently revolves around broadband connectivity, equipment reliability, and capacity of designated staff to optimally operate equipment. INEC has consistently given assurance in this regard.
Cyber-Governance of Election Arrangements
The OceanSpring Technology Advisory Services expert opinion availed our Editorial Board as part of 2023 risk assessment programme, suggests that pre-eminent concerns could only represent not more than 15% of threat matrix with regards to the entire infrastructure and services being deployed by INEC.
According to the Nigerian Cybercrime Act 2015, the President has the power to designate certain computer systems and information infrastructure vital to national security. Infringing hackers may be liable for a 5 years sentence with an option of 10 million Naira fine upon conviction.
In view of these provisions and absence of policies or Presidential Executive Order designating referenced infrastructure as vital to national security, the Africa Signal News and Magazine Group (ISSN: 2536638-6) has categorized outlook on the 2023 General Elections of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as of grave concern. This is in line with United Nations Development Programme Risk Categories on Social and Environmental, Financial, Operational, Organisational, Political, Regulatory, Strategic, and Safety and Security.
This risk will materialize in the event of a criminal breach of any INEC electronic asset deployed for election purposes, or a litigation that may seek to prove that such a breach may have occurred. Given reliance on the Electoral Act as presently amended and INEC Guidelines for Conduct of Elections on BVAS Accreditation, despite zero provisions for electronic voting, the outlook is plausible and could easily be triggered by any motivated dissenting actor or party.
Specific Details Indicating Possible Incursion
INEC’s infrastructure arrangements exclusively consist of diverse network devices, end-user devices and network media in several logical and physical topology. These items are Network Interface Controller (NIC) devices. This means their unique MAC addresses can be intercepted along with their IP addresses. Communication between a sending and receiving device is only possible because all devices within the network can identify the sender and recipient MAC addresses.
INEC has no secure proprietary TCP/IP transport for any of its BVAS machines, and must therefore rely on whatever is publicly available across all the polling units spread across the 774 LGAs. It means data which deserves military-grade encryption will be transported across open channels like any other trivial data. Apparently, any motivated person with basic networking skills and imagination can gain access with relative ease. Nigerians are extremely smart enough, and they are currently experiencing a pointless cash crunch imposed by a few people in government and power.
As Nigeria goes further in the quest for technology-driven electioneering, innovative and transparent technology adoption will continue to be an important barometer for preparedness, reliability and integrity of the voting process. Existing jurisprudence and policies are evasive on these crucial elements, providing opportunities for nefarious engagements. In the recently concluded Osun Governorship elections and litigations, INEC regrettably issued conflicting reports, based on exact same data, to contending parties.
It is therefore not difficult to anticipate likely response on possible breaches of this election. The good news is that help is available. With a 200 million skilled population yearning for inclusiveness in nation building opportunities, the search for viable homegrown solutions should definitely not be a rocket science.
(Samuel Odebowale, Managing Editor)