Finding use for a criminal genius

A suspected professional hacker, Michael Williams, was recently arrested by the Nigeria Police, Lagos  State command, for allegedly defrauding an auto dealer of N28 million. The alleged fraudster reportedly negotiated the price of a Porsche car and paid the seller through electronic transfer. It was later discovered that the transaction was fake and the bank credit alert received spurious, as the transaction figure did not register in the auto seller’s account. Meanwhile, the alleged trickster had made away with his purchase. Fortunately, the police worked on the petition written by the car dealer, arrested Williams and reportedly recovered the Porsche in Asaba. The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Edgal Imohimi, described the suspect as a professional hacker who had a very good mastery of the cyber environment.

The reported hacking expertise of Williams is tremendous as he could do virtually anything online. He allegedly confessed to the crime and gave a synopsis of his cyber crime prowess.  The suspect claimed that he could create a credit card and fund the card account upon maturity with funds from the hacked Swiss account of any of his victims. He is also said to possess the ability to close down the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) system of any organisation in Nigeria for 67 minutes, a window period which security experts said is enough to commit any crime. Williams is obviously a genius even if an evil one.

If indeed the suspect is a medical doctor, his resourcefulness should not be entirely surprising given his intellectual background. A student has to be above average in order to graduate from the medical school. However, it is most unfortunate that the young man of 28, who has both age and talent as clear advantages, chose to deploy his ingenuity to achieve negative ends. The motivation for his escapades remains unclear because medical practitioners, even in Nigeria, can still work to earn a fairly decent living. And even though there may be a need for an upgrade or a bit of retraining, the earning capacity for medical professionals is much better in Canada where the suspect claimed to have relocated after being allegedly eased out by his employers in Nigeria.

He chose the easier but ignoble way to survive; he acquired hacking expertise in Canada instead of improving himself in his original calling to earn a living within the ambit of the law. It is very sad. It is even sadder to contemplate the fate that awaits him should he be found guilty of the crime he allegedly committed, especially in a clime where the criminal justice system hardly reforms but destroys criminals. It is painful to imagine that his resourcefulness and creativity, albeit seemingly negative, will go to waste because of the environment where he may have to serve his punishment.

There must be  a  way to convert the proverbial waste to wealth. The system should find a use for the acclaimed dexterity and creative energy of this criminal genius, without prejudice to the need for him to account for his alleged criminal and illegal actions. The suspect’s impeccable knowledge of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT), especially the cyber environment, would not be simply discarded in saner climes. What they do is a reorientation and redeployment of such extraordinary skills and ingenuity away from criminality, in order to make them serve noble and legitimate causes.  There have been precedents in other jurisdictions where criminals were arrested, debriefed and made to work with security agencies to fight crime, especially in their areas of specialty.

The alleged confession by the suspect that bank deposits in Nigeria lack protection against hackers is a serious observation that clearly recommends a working arrangement between Williams and the security agencies. He should be made to come forward and identify areas of vulnerabilities and loopholes with a view to developing strategies to plug them. An outlaw sometimes has his own nuisance value. And it is not out of place for the authorities to extract such value in the interest of the society.

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