How Does The Fifth Estate Operate?


Rarzack Olaegbe

The Fifth Estate extends the sequence of the three classical Fourth Estate of the Realm. That is the mainstream media. It is the non-traditional media. By extension, the cyber thieves are classified as another group that wears the garb of the Fifth Estate.

It is a movie. It is a 2013 biographical thriller movie. It is about the news-leaking website, WikiLeaks. The Fifth Estate is a reference to people who operate like journalists. But they operate outside the normal constraints imposed on the mainstream media.

The Fifth Estate is a “socio-cultural reference to groupings of outliers’ viewpoints in contemporary society”. This is associated with bloggers. They publish in non-mainstream media outlets. Outside of social media.

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The Fifth Estate extends the sequence of the three classical Fourth Estate of the Realm. That is the mainstream media. It is the non-traditional media. By extension, the cyber thieves are classified as another group that wears the garb of the Fifth Estate. Now, however, the road narrows.

It leads to one main group. It focuses on the activities of cybercriminals. The cyber rats function outside the confines of the regulated arena. From the watchtower, they peek at happenings in the palace.

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But they live outside the palace. They eat from the crumbs that fall off the table. But they are far from the table. They feed fat from the altar. But they do not labour at the altar. They work against the grain. They are opposing the system. They do not sow nor spin.

They engage in social engineering in a malicious, negative way. They do this to the detriment of society. In the process, they have succeeded in brewing what the acting chief risk officer, enterprise risk management at NGX, Mrs Oluyemi Obadare referred to as the “cyber-crime pandemic”. This is so because the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated an increased demand for information online.

Media reports had it that few Nigerians and members of a syndicate are in jail in the USA for cybercrime. But in Nigeria, the Fifth Estate is on the loose. For instance, there have been stories of bankers who were complicit in cybercrimes. That tale tells of insider manipulations. It is endless.

For instance, the latest tale came from a report by Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS). The report said bank customers have lost N42.7 billion to fraudsters. In three months. That is a whopping N14, 233 billion each month. How did the fraudsters fleece the customers of N42.7 billion in three months? It happened through social engineering.

What is social engineering? It is the use of a centralised system to manage social change and behaviour of a society. Cybercriminals use social engineering to lure innocent bank customers to divulge personal and private information. The information will include bank verification number, birth date, national identity number, and personal identity number.

How do cyber thieves operate? I am not a member of a syndicate! The cyber thieves use psychological manipulation. They trick bank customers to make security mistakes. They lure them to divulge sensitive information. This information is for fraudulent purposes. Bank customers who have online accounts are susceptible to fraud. At times, cybercriminals use phishing or vishing attacks to perfect the simplest social engineering scams.

Before you ask, vishing or voice phishing is another tool. The cyber rats usually dial random numbers. Over the telephone, the cybercriminals will mimic some trusted institutions, say, a bank. That will calm your nerves. Once the criminal has your attention, your private personal and financial information is requested in exchange for a “financial reward.” Most bank customers have succumbed to this ploy. That is how they have lost N42.755 billion.

How did cybercriminals get access to my private information? A risk management expert told me that there is no code that cannot be cracked. He said any door that is locked by a man can be opened by another man. So, those who work in the banks are humans. Managing cyber risk is a big business for the banks. So the banks are constantly accessing and managing their risks. But, you know, none is perfect.

Cybercriminals are always searching for loopholes in the database. If the criminals have access to your database once, it is easy the next time. That is why banks are constantly reassessing their cyber risks.

Do you mean bank staff can collude with these fraudsters to release sensitive information to cyber criminals for financial gain? We are in a perilous time.

Heinous crimes are committed daily. Well, NIBSS has corroborated the social engineering angle. It said the fraudsters still prefer the social engineering technique. The technique works always. For instance, through social engineering, N42.755 billion was lost to fraudsters in the first quarter of 2020.

From The Sideline

You still haven’t answered my query. How do these fraudsters get the phone numbers?

The information comes from stolen mobile phones, from social media, from e-commerce websites and from online transactions you must have conducted sometimes.

A man called me from the bank!

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What did he want?

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My BVN and birth date. He said he wanted to give me information on how I can get covid-19 fund from the federal government. Oh, my heart!

Are you ok? Did you give him your personal information? I know many Nigerians have been defrauded this way. No one will be responsible for the stolen funds. By the way, what’s your BVN?

I will not divulge my BVN!


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