By Muyiwa Awosile
Since the Federal Government of Nigeria implemented the ban on Twitter, many Nigerians have resorted to using Free Virtual Private Network (VPN) software to bypass the restrictions put in place by the Internet Service Providers in the country (ISPs) on their networks.
A VPN software works by creating a secure connection between a user’s device and the internet. When you connect to the internet through a VPN software, all the data traffic from your device is sent through an encrypted virtual tunnel and this can make you safer, anonymous and freer on the internet as you’ll be able to access websites and online services that would otherwise be blocked.
There are two main types of VPN software – the FREE ones (which are more popular with Nigerians) and the Premium ones which you have to pay a subscription for. Using a free VPN could actually make you less safe online, cost you more than you realise, and ruin your entire internet experience. Premium VPNs on the other hand offer a lot more protection, for a small fee, without the hidden dangers that Free VPNs expose users to. Before using a free VPN, you need to be aware of the drawbacks associated with them. Five of these are explained below.
Your Security could be Compromised
One of the primary purposes of a VPN is to protect you from hackers but unfortunately some VPNs actually contain malware, adware or other malicious software which can compromise your device leading to security breaches. A lot of the malware is related to advertising as free VPN software developers rely on advertising for revenue.
Online Activity Tracking
A major reason people use VPNs is to protect their privacy while browsing the internet but unfortunately many free VPNs have third-party trackers embedded in the software. These trackers are used to gather data on the user’s online activity, so advertisers are better able to target users with ads. So instead of providing users with privacy, the VPNs are doing the exact opposite, by collecting user information and selling it to the highest advertising bidder.
Limited Data Usage
Many free VPNs limit the amount of data you can use. They do this to push users into upgrading to a paid plan out of sheer frustration.
Slower Internet Speed
Free VPNs can also lead to slower internet speeds leading to a frustrating user experience. This is because traffic from the free version is sometimes deprioritised when compared to the paid or premium versions. Free VPNs can also slow down your internet speeds when targeted ads are displayed. The justification for the ads is that since users are not paying any monthly subscriptions, free VPNs need another way to make money off them.
Potential vulnerability to botnets
A botnet infects a large number of individual computers or devices with malware and harnesses them together to carry out an attack. Some VPN products are designed to harness the processing power from the devices of their free users and offer that power to their paying customers for profit. This is of serious concern as cyber criminals are able to exploit this vulnerability to launch attacks on unsuspecting VPN users.
VPNs are complicated software that require a great deal of investment to create and maintain. They constantly need to keep up with the ever-changing world of internet privacy. That is why Free VPN providers try to cover their costs and generate revenue from their users by embedding hidden tools and tricks. These tactics are not only dangerous and risky but completely negate the principles of security and privacy that VPNs are supposed to be built for in the first place.
Muyiwa Awosile is a Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Consultant and Managing Director of Tros Technologies.
TeamApt Transactions Hit N1.4T In May
Nigeria’s one of Nigeria’s leading fintech companies, Teamapt said it transacted N1.4 trillion ($3.5billion) value in 68 million transactions volume in May 2021 on its agency banking platform.
The data sourced from the monthly report of Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF), an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to promote agency banking and mobile money in the country, shows that Teamapt controls 74 percent of the total agency banking operations within the period.
The company which is currently leading Nigeria’s agency banking industry provides financial services for the underserved mass market through Moniepoint – its financial access product, and Monnify – its payment gateway infrastructure.
At a media briefing on Thursday in Lagos, officials of Teamapt revealing more of its transaction figures and financial performance for the past months said in less than two years, the company has grown rapidly to operate the largest agency banking platform with a network of over 100,000 agents.
In March 2021, it hit a milestone of transactions worth over N1trillion ($2.4bn) for the first time. In May, the value increased to N1.4 trillion ($3.5bn) with 68 million transactions in volume, and between April 2020 and April 2021, the total value of transactions processed has gone up to $16 billion.
Speaking on the company’s plans to transform financial services in Africa, CEO and founder of TeamApt, Mr. Tosin Eniolorunda said “To achieve our mission of providing financial happiness for all, we started out by building working infrastructure and distributing this in every of Nigeria’s 36 states.
“So far, Moniepoint has served over 25 percent of the 48 million banked Nigerians, previously underserved by the financial system. This is a great feat but we still have a lot of work to do. Many Nigerians are still underserved, and with this pain not exclusive to Nigeria but shared among Africans, we intend to scale into more regions of the continent.
“We remain focused on innovating, and we expect that in the future, through Moniepoint, we will reach more people across Africa and build their trust in the financial system and processes. We look forward to empowering our agents with the facilities to offer other financial services directly to customers, beyond deposits and withdrawals,’’ Eniolorunda added.
TeamApt reiterated its commitment to transform financial services in Africa, the company was founded in 2015 and started out by building infrastructure for tier-one financial institutions.
SEC Plans to Launch Regulatory Incubation Programme For Fintechs
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced plans to launch a regulatory incubation (RI) programme for fintech operating or seeking to operate in the Nigerian capital market.
According to a circular published on the commission’s website on Wednesday, June 16, it says that the initiative will be launched in the third quarter of 2021 and will operate by admitting identified fintech business models and processes in cohorts for a one-year period.
The RI program comprises two phases of participation – an initial assessment phase and the regulatory incubation phase.
The SEC said that the categories to be admitted into each cohort will be determined based on submissions received through the fintech assessment form and communicated ahead of each take-off date.
The circular read: “Review of completed Fintech Assessment Forms will continue on an ongoing basis. FinTechs who consider that there is no specific regulation governing their business models or who require clarity on the appropriate regulatory regime for seeking the authorization of the Commission, are encouraged to complete the Fintech Assessment Form.”
The commission maintained that it designed the RI program in order to address the needs of new business models and processes that require regulatory authorization to continue carrying out full or ancillary technology-driven capital market activities.
It will serve as an interim measure to aid the evolution of effective regulation which accommodates the innovation by fintech without compromising market integrity and within limits that ensure investor protection.
Truecaller Launches Smart SMS Feature in Africa
Truecaller, the world’s most trusted and accurate Caller ID and telephone search engine, is rolling out a new feature to further augment the user experience.
The new feature Smart SMS has been introduced based on user feedback and is designed to cater to the evolving needs of our consumers. It offers a host of new services to make day-to-day communication a lot more convenient.
Smart SMS is powered by state-of-the-art machine learning models that adapt based on the feedback you give it. It supports users with important messages from banks, billers, travel companies, delivery companies and so much more.
Smart SMS also helps users stay protected from spam and fraud. Only the essential information within an SMS is highlighted and all SMS messages are categorised and easily accessible. From keeping track of your expenses to last-minute changes to your travel, Smart SMS is the future of SMS that will make life a whole lot easier.
Commenting on the new addition, Zakaria Abdulkadir Hersi, Director of Business Development & Partnerships Africa at Truecaller said: “Roughly 80% of SMSes one receives daily are from businesses, disengaging users from important/useful messages. To combat that, SMS apps need to become smarter by filtering out spam and categorising useful information.
“At Truecaller, we constantly strive to offer the best user experience by adding unique features that fit in with our core mission: to make communication safer and more efficient for everyone. Truecaller has evolved into a powerful communication hub and for the people who wish to use the app to its fullest, we want to streamline the experience as much as possible for an efficient calling and messaging experience for our end user.”
Truecaller uses the same powerful algorithms used to identify spam callers in SMS as well. The SMS intelligence is built into the app itself and it can work offline – nothing leaves your device, including all OTPs, bank SMSes and financial information.
The feature also offers a Smart Inbox that identifies unknown SMS sender numbers and SMS sender IDs are resolved to business names with logos.
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