Yesterday the federal government of Nigeria released a statement via its official Twitter handle of the ministry of information and culture, banning all Twitter service operations in Nigeria.
According to Wikipedia, Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them.
This ban invariably means that Twitter services will no longer be accessible directly on the internet via any Nigeria Internet Service Provider.
The ban is to mandate all Internet Service Providers in Nigeria to prevent its internet users from accessing Twitter services either via the regular web or mobile application. So users who are connected to the internet will remain connected and will be able to access other social media or social networking sites except for access to Twitter services.
While this may sound to be a major milestone for the federal government since it has been looking for ways to regulate social media, it is also a very terrible decision because it is an awareness of a new dimension of anonymity, crime & catastrophic disaster that has the capacity to cripple the economy even more than it is already.
Even countries like China and Iran that have effected such a ban have not been able to restrict access completely and the reason is that there are technologies that enable bypass of any IP restriction.
For the federal government to effect this ban, Internet Service Providers will need to identify and blacklist all IP addresses that belong to Twitter. Once this is done, no one should be able to access Twitter again directly from their phones, or laptops. However, this blacklist can be bypassed using Virtual Private Network Technology or even a TOR Browser.
A Virtual Private Network, generally known as VPN, is a technology that enables users to connect and communicate with a server at another location usually in another country different from the user’s country, using an encrypted connection. Once the connection is established, the VPN technology enables the user to make use of the IP address of the server it is connected with to request any web or mobile application, which in turn is sent to the user’s devices via the VPN connection that is highly encrypted.
Now the federal government would not know the content of the reply because it is encrypted with a strong encryption algorithm.
The reason I said this ban will be disastrous to Nigeria is that it will automatically create a level of VPN awareness which users of the Nigeria Twitter community and by extension, the Nigeria internet community would begin to explore, which will make the job of the law enforcement agencies more difficult as it may be difficult to trace IP addresses used for cyber-related crimes.
When citizens are brought to the knowledge of how VPN can effectively make them anonymous by masking their IP address while on the internet, it becomes a preference, even after the ban is lifted if it will be. This in turn will increase cybercrime rates.
Using a VPN connection to now access the internet will cripple corporate organizations that target internet users as their source of business clients. Most corporate organizations that engage in digital marketing for survival will no longer be able to effectively get their client via the internet community because VPN users will be using the IP address of another country to access the internet which includes their social media accounts. This will have a drastic effect on social media advertisements. It may end up shutting down companies and other small and medium enterprises because digital marketing advert will no longer be as effective as they used to be when there was no VPN.
The most dangerous effect of this ban is when internet users decide to access Twitter from a tor browser instead of a VPN or when internet users use a VPN alongside a tor-browser. This combination does not just bring anonymity, it also introduces the Nigerian internet community to the dark web.
The dark web is not a place the country should encourage citizens to begin to access because it cannot only corrupt the citizens, it can also empower citizens with information that internet users should never have been privileged to on regular internet access. It will not only be devastating for the Nigerian community to be introduced to the dark web activities, but it can also be disastrous!
It is never too late for a reversal!
Jafaru, is a Cyber Security Expert & Founder of HICS Academy.