The United States Department of Homeland Security, DHS, encapsulates online safety best practices in a catchphrase: STOP. THINK. CONNECT. The first step is to STOP: ensure security measures are in place. THINK: about the far-reaching consequences of your actions/online activities. CONNECT: and enjoy your devices with more peace of mind. Take heed of the following cybersafety tips, habits:
- Be vigilant against ransomware: Ransomware cyberattacks has become one of the biggest cybersecurity threats. Ransomware is coined from – ‘’ransom’’ – money demanded in return of a captured person or something valuable. Ransomware is malicious software remotely deployed by cybercriminals (cyber-extortionists) to encrypt, hold valuable digital information ‘hostage’ until a ransom is paid. A combination of the following tips will help prevent not just ransomware but other forms of cyberattacks, data breaches.
- Use strong, unique passwords, passcodes or touch ID features to lock your devices (or use a password manager): Research says more than half of Internet users choose the same password for everything they do online. Common passwords such as — ‘’123456’’, ‘’QWERTY’’, ‘’password’’, amongst others are easy to guess and compromise. Instead of the aforementioned common passwords, try using multiword phrase or easy to remember sentence (e.g. I am Passionate About Cybersecurity); incorporate numbers and special characters such as #@&^. Better still, use two-factor authentication or a password manager.
- Protect your online identity and security on social media platforms: Social media and messaging platforms – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp, amongst others, have become intrinsic part of our daily lives. They help us communicate, network, stay abreast of news and events. Your personal information (date of birth etc.), games you like to play; your contacts list, your itinerary and location are assets to cybercriminals. Be wary who gets such data and which Apps harvest such info.
- Keep software, Anti-virus, Applications updated: A cybersecurity rule-of-thumb in securing your personal computer, smart device is keeping your operating system and all software, Applications up-to-date. Software updates help patch vulnerabilities.
- Secure your Wi-Fi (or use a VPN): When a Wi-Fi or hotspot connection is not secured properly (weak password), it can be an Achilles’ heel for hackers to penetrate. If for some reason you have no choice but to use a public Wi-Fi network (hotspot), ensure you secure your connection by using a VPN (virtual private network). This will ensure your data is encrypted.
- Should a suspicious process be detected on your computer or device, promptly turn off the Internet connection: This is particularly efficient during the early stage of a cyberattack because the ransomware won’t get the chance to launch a connection with its remote Command and Control server and thus cannot complete the encryption process.
- Switch off unused wireless connections, such as Bluetooth or infrared ports: Cybercriminals can surreptitiously exploit a Bluetooth to launch a cyberattack or compromise a computer, a mobile device.
- Tor (The Onion Router) Internet Protocol (IP) addresses or gateways are usually the preferred route for ransomware to communicate with their Command and Control servers. Hence, blockading such IP addresses may impede a malicious malware from infiltrating.
- When in doubt, throw it out: If an email, link, attachment, social media post, advertisement, picture or video look suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or mark it as spam. Don’t click or open it! Cybercriminals often conceal ransomware, malwares on such gimmicks.
- Protect your financial transactions: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. A website with “Http://” is not secure. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://,” which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information.
- Avoid logging in to your bank account with public Wi-Fi, public computers, cyber cafes or public libraries. Hackers can intercept your information. If you must, ensure there is no key-logger, clear the internet history or cache after use. Check your bank account balance after making any transaction online.
- Type your internet banking URL: It is a safer to type your bank URL in the web browser’s address bar than clicking on links. Links can be cloned, masked.
- Never give out your banking details: bank verification number (BVN), Pin number, internet banking details to someone purporting to call from your financial institution. Your bank will NEVER ask for your confidential information via phone or email.
- Back Up You Information/files: Regularly protect your files, valuable work, music, photos and other digital information by making an electronic copy and store it safely in an external hard/flash drive. Backups are useful only if they’re created prior to a cyberattack.
- Be internet, Social media savvy and stay current: Keep pace with innovations, new ways to stay safe online: Check trusted websites for the latest information, and share with friends, family, and colleagues and encourage them to be web wise.
- Think before you act: Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true or messages that entreat you to act immediately.
- It’s a good security practice to delete software, Apps you no longer use.
- Increase the privacy and security settings on your online and social media platforms.
- Share with care: The Golden Rule applies online, on social media. Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and it’s implication in the future.
- Help fight cybercrime: Report cybercrimes to law enforcement agencies, establishments such as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) Computer Emergency Readiness and Response Team (CERRT) for assistance regarding ransomware, cyberattack via telephone (+2348023275039) or e-mail ( [email protected]).
The United States of America designates every October as ‘’National Cyber Security Awareness Month’’ (NCAM). Initiated in 2004, the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a collaboration between government —the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — and private industry — the National Cyber Security Alliance, and other partners. The National Cyber Security Awareness Month campaign is aimed at raising awareness about the importance of cybersecurity (safeguarding digital information) and to increase resiliency in the event of an incident.
The United States President, Mr. Donald J. Trump proclaimed the October 2017 National Cybersecurity Awareness Month a while ago at the White House. The National Cybersecurity Awareness Month campaign is now a global call to action. Canada, Europe and other countries have joined the fray. Africa, nay, Nigeria must take a cue.
The advent of the internet and social media has revolutionized virtually every facet of our daily life. Incidents of cyberattack, hacking, ramsomware are commonplace. The inherent danger in cyberattacks is that distance is not a barrier. A hacker in North Korea can wreak havoc in Nigeria from the comfort of his bedroom. In September 2017, Equifax Inc., a United States consumer credit reporting agency says a huge cybersecurity breach compromised the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans — almost half the country. Cybercriminals accessed sensitive information — including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver’s licenses.
Washington Post reported in May 2017, how more than 150 countries were affected by massive ramsomware cyberattack. Schools, hospitals, vehicle manufacturing, telecommunications, banks, businesses and other establishments were affected. The malware, deployed in this ransomware cyberattack is known as WanaCrypt0r 2.0, or WannaCry. Also recall that in 2015, a multinational gang of cybercriminals dubbed “Carbanak’’, infiltrated more than 100 banks across 30 countries and stole upwards of one billion dollars over a period of roughly two years. Cybercriminals steal more than £47 million annually through ATM card cloning (skimming) in the United Kingdom. Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu says cybercrime costs Nigeria N127 billion annually.
A recent Kaspersky Cybersecurity Index estimates that up to 40 percent of people still leave their devices unprotected from online threats. A cybersecurity special report suggests that ransomware will worsen due to the increasing penetration and inherent vulnerabilities in Internet of Things (IoT), medical devices, web cameras, IP Phones, Internet Protocol (IP) CCTV Cameras, DVRs, SmartHouses or SmartCities, wearables such as SmartWatches, public Wi-Fi, and proliferation of mobile Apps with malicious codes, amongst others.
Governments alone cannot curb cyberthreats. All hands must be on deck! Be #CyberAware! This explains why the overall theme of the October 2017 cybersecurity awareness month is, ‘’Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility’’.
If you want to make a difference in the world of cybersafety, join the STOP.THINK.CONNECT campaign as an individual or a partner organization by visiting the Department of Homeland Security Website. It’s free! Friends of the campaign receive monthly newsletter with cyber news, tips, and trends.
Recommendation: The Nigerian government, relevant agencies will do well to formulate and implement up-to-date national cybersecurity policy, data protection law. Ongoing public cybersecurity awareness is exigent.
© Don Okereke, a security analyst/consultant, writer, public speaker, is CEO Holistic Security Background Checks Limited (RC 1407617)
October 6, 2017
Strong performance from Stanbic IBTC, despite weak retail banking position
Will Stanbic IBTC be able to generate profit from its personal banking division by full year?
Stanbic IBTC made a profit after tax of N45.2billion, growing its profit by 24.7% when compared with this period last year.
The feat is remarkable; given that a majority of financial institutions responded as expected to the economic downturn triggered by inflationary pressures, oil price instability, and lack of notable business activities, necessitated by the corona-virus pandemic that has characterised the 2020 business calendar year.
These other organizations reflected positions worse off than their escapades in 2019. In cases where improvements in bottom-line were seen, it was only marginal.
Stanbic IBTC was not exempted from these economic trials, their immensely diversified business portfolio boosted their numbers on multiple fronts. Robust presence in Asset Management paid off, as commissions and fees represented a massive 62% of general fees and commission income. It’s Corporate and Investment division continues to produce astoundingly, contributing the highest and growing profit after tax of 49.2%.
This focused and efficiently monitored diversification, is turning Stanbic IBTC into world-beaters, reflecting in the expansion of its gross earnings by 7.8%, from N117.4billion in HY’2019 to N126.6billion so far this year.
This position could have appeared even better; had STANBIC been able to demonstrate in its personal and business banking segment, the same excellence, noticeable in its other business segments (Wealth, Corporate and Investment).
It’s Personal banking (generally regarded as Retail banking), encompasses the provision of banking and financial services to individual customers and SME’s (Small and Medium scale enterprises), mortgage lending, leases, card products, transactional and lending activities such as telephone banking, ATM’s, etc. The segment suffered this year, closing with a loss of N3.2billion, despite being responsible for over 58.4% of general staff costs. This poor position was sponsored by a reduction in income levels, especially non-interest income from fees and commission.
Unsurprisingly, given CBN’s policy at the start of the year to implement a much-reduced transfer fee rate, an increase in Non-performing loans is another causal factor for its loss this half-year. STANBIC cannot afford to bask in the euphoria of the massive successes of its Wealth and Corporate segment, at the expense of Retail banking.
Retail banking is fundamental to any bank looking to be a force, or preserve its going-concern status in this critically competitive economic environment. It has been the subject of immense research in the last decade, with many banks devising strategies to acquire a large chunk of the market share in this business segment. The banking landscape is evolving amidst growing competition, such that a bank that generally does well in its retail banking segment, is perceived as strong by the public. This has an underrated capacity to effortlessly attract more customers. Banks need to revisit the drawing board and re-embrace their sacred purpose of serving the basic and pure needs of their individual customers.
Michael Lafferty, Chairman of the Lafferty Group, whilst describing Retail banking said, “Retail banking is the foundation on which global banks are built,” It is a vast retail and consumer banking market, pointing out that the world’s biggest banks built their financial empire from the mass market.
Stanbic IBTC must be conscious in its quest to provide universal banking and find a balance in product and service offerings across its business segment.
A summary of the performance parameters in its financial statement, shows growth in gross earnings, from N117.4billion to N126.6billion, and improvement in earnings per share from 342kobo to 419kobo.
Attention now shifts to the impact of the bank’s new super app, supposedly a one-stop-shop for its diverse offerings, including banking, investing, pensions, trading, and insurance, and how it affects the bottom line in subsequent quarters.
Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data
Lastly, will Stanbic IBTC be able to generate profit from its personal banking division by full year? We await their H2’2020 results.
Is Zenith Bank thriving on the strength of sound financial indices?
Zenith Bank posts N103.8bn profit in half-year financial result.
Sound financial indices have made Zenith Bank one of the largest banks in the Nigerian banking Industry. It was recognized as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria 2019, in the Global Banker magazine Top 500 Banking brands; and Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria 2019, by the World Finance.
Zenith Bank has successfully bolstered this narrative even further with the release of its Half Year 2020 Financial Report, where it closed with a profit of N103.8 billion.
Growing profit position in these perilous times, speaks remarkably of the suppleness and elasticity of any establishment. A lull in economic activity caused by inflationary pressures, precariousness of the market, and the coronavirus pandemic has forced most Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to cave in, and reveal achievements worse off than their 2019 results y/y – but not Zenith Bank Plc. The institution has showcased beyond reasonable doubt, that the apparent limitations are incapable of distorting its active growth pattern.
Zenith Bank closed H1 2020, 16.8% better off than it did in 2019 y/y, in terms of profit after tax. Although this massive leap, hugely resulting from tax paid as profit before tax, noted just a 2.2% growth. Further analysis of its HY’2020 results, demonstrates more efficiency, a focused cost of fund optimization, and an aggressiveness in generating income across its business heads and segments. This strategy had begun since 2018, and was shared by the bank when it disclosed planned implementation of an improved core banking system, hoping it would ultimately enhance efficiency while reducing costs.
Zenith Bank has thrived on the strength of its sound business model, corporate governance, conservative risk management, and strategic corporate social investment. The bank has been very forceful in the market, improving massively across all of its income generating segments, despite the plausible and obvious hindrances. This is a testament to its superiority, and sponsors its claim for supremacy.
The bank made N22billion from foreign exchange revaluation gains and despite evidence to the contrary, it endeavored in operating expenditure (OPEX). OPEX may have grown by 7.7%, but disclosures and note to the accounts shows that in virtually every expense head, costs dropped. The 7.7% was triggered majorly by Information Technology related costs, fuel and maintenance, and an increase in the compulsory banking cost fund, set up for the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) by the CBN.
Now, like every hero susceptible to their hubris, Zenith has its own problems, which questions its position at the top. Yes, the bank may have an amazing and constantly improving interest expense to interest income ratio, but it does not possess the finest result in this regard as of yet. HY 2019 interest expense took as much as 33.6% of its income, while HY 2020 dropped to 27.4%. This is good, but still considerably high, if we carry out a peer-to-peer analysis with Guarantee Trust Bank Plc (masters of low-interest expenses), whose ratio stands at 16% for HY 2020.
However, Zenith has sustained the momentum of positioning itself as the crème de la crème in the Nigerian Banking Industry for quite some time. The bank’s pattern of growth and performance, strongly indicates its capabilities to manage its interest expense in subsequent quarters. It will be interesting to see how this pans out by year end.
In summary, despite economic difficulties this year, with most bank’s bottom-line at a worse position than the corresponding period last year, Zenith posted improved profit yet again. Could this be enough to portray supremacy?
UBA Plc H1’2020 results, a true reflection of its rightsizing decision?
UBA’s H1 2020 result is yet another demonstration of the resilience of its business model.
The upward review in benefits of some employees and directors this year, coupled with the rising operational costs, constitutes the hot topics from the 2020 semi-annual results released by UBA Plc.
Widely regarded as the banking sector’s largest employer of labour in Nigeria, the bank in December 2019, embarked on a ‘rightsizing’ exercise, which partly resulted in new hires, as well as promotions, improved remunerations, and benefits for existing employees.
The Group Head, Media and External Relations, UBA Plc, Nasir Ramon commenting on this said, “over 5000 staff of UBA Plc, started the new year with a lot of cheer, as the bank promoted to new grades, coupled with salary upgrades. Beneficiaries of this exercise will receive up to 170% increase in their salaries and benefits, whilst a good number have been moved to higher grade levels.”
Directors saw their emoluments amplify by 177.7% (Fees and Sitting allowances) as demonstrated in the financial statements of the bank. Rising to N50million in June 2020, from N18million in 2019 y/y.
Now, Deposit Money Banks (DMB’s) might be adjudged to be honorable in all of their objectives, but the truth is they are neither self-sacrificing nor are they expected to be. DMB’s are established for profit, and would incessantly prioritize business good sense over social empathy, for the sake of their owners. The import of this is, UBA Plc expects its colossal investments in employees and directors to overwhelmingly reflect in its bottom-line.
Half-year 2020 results is clearly not in sync with this philosophy, as it reflects a weakened position compared to the corresponding period last year, despite the investments in human capital. Profit before tax dropped by 18.7%, from N70.3billion recorded in HY’2019 to N57.1billion in the current period. Profit after tax waned as well by 21.7% to N44.4billion from N56.7billion in HY’2019.
Interestingly enough, the top-line fared pretty well. Interest income and fee income showed improvements, albeit marginally by 0.3% and 6.7% respectively. This makes it illogical to attribute the entirety of the decline in profit to the recent austerity measures put in place by the CBN, reducing funds transfer fees and card maintenance charges.
The Coronavirus pandemic played a big role too, by widely stunting the economy in the second quarter of 2020, and negatively impacting profit. But even these do not provide substantial and sufficient convictions as to why the Tier-one bank did not hit the profit-bar it set for itself, from its truly emphatic 2019 financial year. Does this mean that UBA Plc got the decision wrong at the start of the year?
Six months seem too short a period to immediately class management’s decision to jack up the benefits and emoluments of its internal customers as a failed one. Although, no one anticipated the travails of COVID-19 and its resulting consequences, investments in human capital is widely proven to yield tremendous growth in the long haul. Besides the fact that it has given UBA Plc a solid reputation in the market place, it also makes the company very attractive to the very best of industry talents. Furthermore, employee engagements of this nature, foster brand loyalty which ultimately trickles down to how passionately these personnel undertake their tasks and deliverables. The true bearing of this investment is expected to reflect in due course, in subsequent quarters.
Commenting on the result, UBA’s Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Mr Kennedy Uzoka said, “Our H1 2020 results is yet another demonstration of the resilience of our business model in an extremely uncertain and tough operating environment. We recorded commendable growth in our underlying business in terms of customer acquisition, transaction volumes, and balance sheet whilst inflation, depressed yield environment and exchange rate volatility impacted our net earnings as anticipated.”
In today’s increasingly aggressive marketplace, where consistently generating revenue, is paramount to preserving the longevity and going-concern status of any establishments, costs must also be accorded as much attention and significance. Tightening and managing costs with the aim to improve and generate profit is genius strategy especially in today’s banking industry. The banking industry is under threat from ruthless competitions. Multifarious streams that had hitherto been available for generating income for DMB’s are being severely hindered by the ‘austere’ policies (from the perspective of commercial banks) from the apex bank, making effective cost management a survival mechanism.
Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data
Employee benefits rose by 20% from N37.2billion in HY’2019 to N44.6billion in HY’2020, while Directors’ emoluments (Fees and Sitting Allowance) as earlier stated, surged by 177% from N18million in 2019 to N50million in 2020 y/y. The total operating expenses increased 22.6% in 2020. UBA Plc, unavoidably expended N22.4billion on Banking Sector Resolution cost trust fund, in compliance with the CBN’s requirement to contribute to the cause of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON). Security and other payments for core services experienced increase as well compared to the preceding year.
Avoidable expenses like Penalties and Premises Maintenance Charge, should be extensively reviewed and extinguished wherever possible, to improve bottom line. UBA plc has forked out N565million in penalties so far in 2020, representing 6177.7% increase from just N9million in 2019 y/y. This is a prime example of the operational brick walls, UBA Plc must properly address to improve its fortunes in subsequent quarters.