Virtual Private Network apps use have become popular among Nigerian youths, who use them mainly to circumvent the government’s ban on Twitter.
Last month, Nigeria announced that it is suspending Twitter’s operation in the country after the company deleted one of president Buhari’s tweets for threatening violence against secessionists in the country’s southeast. Since then, many people have turned to VPN use to make it look like they are accessing Twitter from outside Nigeria.
Even the country’s Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, mistakenly revealed himself using VPN to access Twitter after the ‘indefinite suspension’.
But some people are beginning to wonder if the many VPNs available online – some of which are free – is safe for them to use.
Nigeria’s minister of information and culture Lai Mohammed, who proposed and announced the suspension, even gave face to this fear recently.
“My advice to anybody using VPN is to stop it because when you use VPN, it exposes your data, including your bank account,” the minister told a senatorial committee which is deliberating why the suspension isnecessary.
So, is there any truth to what Mr Mohammed is claiming?
Can VPN access my bank accounts?
A computer and communication expert, engineer Adebisi Akinsulire told the BBC “No, it is not possible”. At least not the way the minister puts it.
According to Akinsulire – who himself has installed a VPN before the ban – all information over a VPN are encrypted. That is, it requires lots of expertise and is almost impossible for anyone to have unauthorized access to other people’s information.
And so for VPN or even any app, to steal information from your bank account, it means you must have downloaded a fake app that resembles the correct one. Or, you accessed a website you are not supposed to.
“So for example, you connected to a free public WiFi to access your bank details, that can put your data at risk.
What can you do to protect yourself online?
- Don’t download any app from websites that are not authorized by the operating system you are using
- Don’t visit websites that are not secured
- Do your research about the software or apps you want to download to see their reputations
- If you can afford it, pay for software or apps you need because free apps sometimes come with viruses.
- Follow all the general guidelines from your Bank to protect your account
- Remember, most software companies that are known have their reputations to protect and so you should always download from known and reputable sources.