10 Apr

Daily Watch – North Korean hackers eye Nigerian banks, Lufthansa to resume at Abuja airport

  • A report from Russian cyber security firm, Kaspersky, says North Korean hackers are allegedly attacking banks in 18 countries, including Nigeria. The organisation noted in its report that this could be regarded as the biggest bank heists in history. Banks and security researchers have previously identified four similar cyber-heists attempts on financial institutions in Bangladesh, Ecuador, the Philippines and Vietnam. But researchers at Kaspersky now say the same hacking operation — known as “Lazarus” — also attacked financial institutions in Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Poland, Taiwan, Thailand, and Uruguay. This report is coming after more than a year-long investigation into the activity of “Lazarus”, the hacking group allegedly responsible for the theft of $81 million in US currency from the Central Bank of Bangladesh last year. According to Kaspersky, the Lazarus hackers carefully routed their signal through France, South Korea and Taiwan to set up that attack server. But there was apparently one mistake spotted by Kaspersky: A connection that briefly came from North Korea. When contacted, CBN spokesman, Isaac Okorafor said the regulator was not aware of any incident.
  • Nigeria will raise quality standards on its imported petrol, diesel and kerosene from July 1, a change health campaigners have long said is necessary to protect citizens from toxic fuel. All imported diesel from July 1 can contain a maximum of 50 parts per million sulphur, while petrol and kerosene can contain a maximum of 150 ppm, according to an environment ministry official and information from the Standards Organization of Nigeria, the body responsible for setting requirements for imported goods. Nigeria’s current import standards are 3,000 ppm on diesel and 1,000 ppm on gasoline. But there was some concern in Nigeria, currently struggling with recession, over the substantial up-front cost of demanding higher standards. International oil traders said the proposals would cost at least $10-15 per tonne or more than $250,000 for each cargo of gasoline. Local refineries run by NNPC were given until 2020 to meet the new standards.
  • Global ratings firm, Fitch has affirmed the profitability of Nigerian banks despite the challenging macroeconomic environment and the consequent rise in their debtors’ inability to honour their loan obligations. The report, which serves as a tonic for the sector operators’ survival bid, noted that the major sources of the current profitability were wide margins and currency revaluation gains, which were also large in some cases. According to the rating agency, although the gains were one-off, they have been realised and provide a strong boost to their capital, which is positive, especially in light of weak asset quality. “The quality of management at Nigeria’s leading banks is solid. Our discussions with management highlight that continued steps will be taken to strengthen capital and address loan quality issues during the first quarter of 2017,” the agency noted. It, however, raised concerns about the reported levels of Non-Performing Loans.
  • The National Bureau of Statistics has said that 15,232,597 passengers travelled through Nigeria’s airports in 2016. The NBS, which disclosed this figure in a report on “Fourth Quarter 2016 and Full Year 2016 Air Transportation Data” said 72 percent were domestic passengers with the remaining 28 percent international fliers entering or leaving Nigeria. “Between 2015 and 2016 the number of passengers recorded by the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria has increased by 6.3 percent. However, since the publication of the last report, FAAN has included data on passengers travelling through more airports, including Bauchi, Eket, Gombe and Uyo. Together, the newly included airports accounted for 667,877 passengers in 2016 or 4.4 percent of the total. Excluding these from the comparison with 2015, reveals that between these two years, total passenger traffic increased by 1.6 percent for those airports included in both years,” the NBS report said. The report noted a quarterly decline in the number of passengers travelling through Nigerian airports in the second half of 2016.
  • Shareholders’ of United Bank for Africa, at the weekend, unanimously approved the bank’s ₦19.9 billion dividend for the 2016 financial year. The dividend payout translated to a final dividend of 55 kobo per share, in addition to the 20 kobo interim dividend earlier paid by the bank, bringing the total dividend to 75 kobo against the 60 kobo declared in 2015. The shareholders who gave the approval at the bank’s 55th AGM general meeting held in Lagos lauded the bank for sustaining its dividend policy over the years. The bank posted gross earnings of ₦383.65 billion during the year under review against ₦314.84 billion achieved in the previous year, an increase of 22 percent. Profit before tax stood at ₦90.64 billion in contrast with ₦68.45 billion in 2015, representing a growth of 32.4 percent. Profit for the year increased by 21.1 percent to ₦72.26 billion from ₦59.65 billion in the comparative period of 2015.
  • Lufthansa Airlines says it will resume flights on April 20 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja following the planned reopening of the airport on April 19. Hakeem Jimoh, the airline’s spokesman in Nigeria said the airline was ready to resume operation in Abuja when the airport reopens. Lufthansa is one of the foreign airlines that declined to operate at Kaduna airport following the closure of Abuja airport and diversion of flights to Kaduna.