In this media chat, Abraham Tanta, the founder and the Chief Executive Office of Tanta Innovative, a software development firm in Lagos shares his experience as a software developer, the need to patronize indigenous software firms and the importance of ethical hacking and penetration test.
Can we meet you and how you started this organization?
Tanta is a group of companies with so many subsidiaries. We have Tanta consolidated, Tanta Innovative, Tanta Secure, and Tanta Holdings. The Tanta Innovative is focused on custom software development. For example, you can tell us how you want your software to be like if you want your software or your computer to bark in the morning once it’s 5am. We can make it work for you. Whatever kind of features you want your system to have or your program or severs. We will make it happen. You don’t have to rely on all these foreign programs software that already done. You just have to go with it the way it was designed to work with. We are giving you the opportunity to tell us what exactly you want and we can make it better. That is what Tanta Innovative is all about. We are trying to focus or use binoculars directly pointing at ethical hacking because that is an untapped section in the market. A lot of companies get issues bank serve issues, fainted, sometimes network issues or you get network issues or disturbance form hackers that are black heart hackers. Sometimes even if you don’t have issues with hackers or you’re not expecting to have issues with hackers. You can never tell when it will happen.
Let’s talk about this software, software is a huge business. From Tanta’s prospective, how huge is this in the market?
The problem basically, I will start from here, the problem of the IT or software business in Nigeria is because people have fear of trying local products because they believe more in foreign products. For instance, if you have a laptop and then there is a Nigerian programmer or a brand that produce a program that can replace Microsoft Office. If you just got a computer now I don’t think you are going to install that program. You are going to install Microsoft Office first because it’s popular, it has reputation. There are lots of things tied to Microsoft Office and you can always do a lot of things because they do upgrade for free. Or you don’t want to get a license you can just get a free pirated copy and still use it for free. People believe more in foreign software and that’s a big problem to Nigerian software market. People don’t know out there that we can actually create this solution. One thing with program is that you can tell me how you want it to work and I’ll just write a language. Software is a written instruction that tells the computer what to do and how to do it. So if am a programmer I can speak the language of the computer that means you just need to tell me what you need then I’ll just speak the language to the computer and I can produce that same result or even better result for you than the already made products out there. If we can be able to overcome this issue or this lack of trust in our local product. I believe the Nigerian market is going to shoot to the sky. Because I tell you today, five years from now there will be a lot of things that will be absolute, a lot of things that will go out of use, a lot of things will be useless. Where is wired NITEL right now? Few years back it was hot cake but right now if you don’t have a phone, you’re in the 15th century. So basically, the country and the citizens need to understand and have to just give us a trial.
This campaign, who do you thing will lead the charge for the local or indigenous software because it is like a campaign?
To answer your question. First of all, we have association that is a group of IT developers. What you need to know is, is not about association or what group you are or this it is about the solution you’re providing. If you make an example with Mark and Steve jobs, those guys wouldn’t have gotten any support if they had not had the kind of innovation and solution that we are providing. Why do you think people or Facebook is one of the biggest companies in the world? Why do you think Google is one of the most sorts for companies in the world? Is because they provide just the right solution you need. So, if you come to my office and you provided me with a solution that my office urgently needs right now, I will do anything to go for it. Basically, these solutions, the results or the campaign should be led by developers themselves not by making noise on social media. Prepare a solution, design it and push it out as a free trial out there. Let somebody get your software and use it. When that person enjoys it for instance if you give a child a biscuit and the child start enjoying the biscuit, try taking it back what happens? The child cries. That’s the same thing. Create a solution that can drive market. Create a solution that can change how people work. Create a solution that can make life easy and you can be the person that will lead this and people will forget about all these foreign products and focus on you because you are solving their problems better than the other ones they serve. This campaign should not be led by organization, association or any membership group. No. It should be led by serious minded developers that will seat in their house and create life solutions.
Can you tell us what Tanta has done in the industry? You mentioned hospitality management. Can you tell us how it has brought transformation to industries that bought it?
We created a solution that. Let me tell you how it works. For example, I just walked into your office to do business with you and am allergic to paracetamol. Then I just collapsed and when you took me to the hospital the doctor looked at me by basically injecting me with a pain killer to subdue my pain because am in pain without knowing that am allergic to paracetamol that leads to uncountable deaths. Sometimes there are deaths you can’t explain because allergy is not written on my forehead. So with our innovation all you have to do is put that patients hand on the device and what happens is every medical record that exist in any database comes up the genotype, blood group, allergies, where he has been treated before, the disease he was treated for, the physician that treated him, the contact information, every information choked up in one and displayed on the screen. That could also be used by security operatives where you can describe somebody. Let’s say I was just robbed. I will just search white hair, long beards, small ears, small eyes. All the people that fit into the descriptions would display and then the victim will just look through say oh that’s the guy. This solution is not easy for us to push it out there into the market because here is the reason when you approach a hospital right now with such solution, the fact that they have not heard about it before, listened to it before and you are a start-up company. They have doubt already before you even present your solution, they have doubts. We have that innovation on ground but it is very difficult to even convince a company to even give it a trial because of that same problem we’ve spoken about which is they don’t trust local products. So that is just the situation but talking about making impact, I cannot categorically tell you directly that our software has made an impact but we are focused on creating solutions and finding means to push them into the market. As of right now we are still creating newer solution, upgrading previously made solutions and very soon we are working on our operating system that will make a lot of things easier for people who are not much into computers like a farmer in the village that is not that educated will still be able to use a computer and a phone. We have all these translators, languages where you can change your language from English to your preferred language. You can do that on the phone but our operating system takes it to the next level. We don’t just change you to a language it gets customized to program. The moment you use a computer few steps, the operating system customizes to befit how you will use it. Let say how you started using it. It gets simpler or it gets harder depending on how your internet is. It’s a smart operating system and we have already designed that operating system but we are fixing bugs and adding new features and still looking into the market. What do we need to add, what difference are we making in the life of the doctor? What impact can we put in the life of a student? How do they customize operating system to fit in the life of a student exclude unnecessary things that could cause distraction? So it takes parental control to the next level. You can just set what exactly you want your child to be able to explore on it. Not just having to set the pass key or something it gets customized. Now if you start using that system when you reset on top of that profile and create a new profile it automatically customizes to the type of person you are according to the age and everything have recorded into the computer.
As the child grows, can it be updated?
Yes, the more you grow. It starts with you and grows with you. If you put your age at 15, when you get to 16 you can access more content. When you get to 18 then you can access every content. So that operating system is something we intend to be release as soon as possible we are able to get our hands in place. Smart phone, computers and other accessories. During that period, we are going to introduce something very massive that we are very sure is going to make a lot of impacts especially to students.
In trying to release the products, have you spoken to some OEMs maybe laptops or smart phone or do you want to have it customized i.e a customized phone?
We are actually working towards that. We want to get in touch with a lot of OEMs and see if we can get solutions to the apps and we also want to focus on producing our own solutions. There are lots of limitations as to what a user gets from a device because the device is not designed for your location. Most of the devices are for UK, US etc. or Asian countries and Arabs. We want a situation where our solutions are designed to be tailored specially for Africans especially Nigerians for a start so with time we aim to come together with other software companies and see if we can get them to work with us to get our solution together as in partnership and push it to stronger organizations Samsung, Apple and the rest.
Being tagged as a hacker by the police and not an ethical hacker unlike other countries, how do you handle it?
If I tell you how many situations I have been to, it’s unbelievable. Having my tools on my laptop alone and walking out on the street at night maybe when I close from work and they happen to check those tools, trust me they don’t want to know if you are an ethical hacker or a pastor hacker. They just know that at that instance you are a fraudster. They call you yahoo boy instantly so have experienced that so much. I have decided to get myself acquainted with the security agencies. Look o am an ethical hacker, this is what I do and this is how I do it. In fact, I think i wrote an official letter to a command letting them know that this is what I do. These are the challenges ethical hackers face. It’s not really the fault of our security agents because there are lots of people that even when they have decided to be an ethical hacker, they end up converting and do malicious things that harm people. What I was trying to say earlier on about ethical hacking. You don’t have to wait to meet an ethical hacker, you don’t have to wait for a situation. There are tools out there that hackers use every day. They hacker will just wake up from bed, go to his computer and he will just type something. The keyword maybe a name e.g. john and just launch in. five days, ten days what he launched is still running and extracting everything that has to do with john in that region continuously. You can make a lot of mistakes by typing your ATM pin or a purchase through an unsecure network or sometimes leave digital foot print. Something you would have done 5months back like purchase can end up affecting you right now because then your details were captured among thousands of other people that the hacker captured with a simple tool they are using to search. You can just receive a debit alert on your phone and not know where it came from. You will be there struggling with people around you at that time, not knowing it happened long time ago. There are lots of errors we make with our devices. what an organization should do is to get the service of an ethical hacker to come and try to penetrate into their system which is called penetration test. When you run penetration test on your system, what you will discover will be unbelievable. You will find out what if hackers where to capture your website or your saver or your IP address these are the things, they could do to you.
There are situations where a hacker will log into your bank accounts without the need of your password or your pin to make a transaction as you and you will be debited. You gave the hacker access yourself by writing it out to the hacker. How? By allowing applications to have access to sensitive data on your device which you might have done previously and lucky for the hacker to get you that moment. That is why it is advisable to always update your pin at least a week or two. Must be updated to something else. You can keep doing it as a circle by repeating it but sticking to a password or a pin for a very long time is a very bad idea. Am talking from experience as an ethical hacker and there a lot of things we know that other hackers do. When we are being as a consulted by companies or organizations to run ethical hacking or penetration test for them the things, we discover is unbelievable. In some cases we are able to access customer’s data and some companies are responsible for leaking a customer’s data unknowingly because you can register on a website that you see that request you to register for something where you input your details like your email, name, and date of birth. You have given your profile to that organization but are you sure they can secure your data? That is why organizations need to take out time to get a consultant to run a penetration test on their website. Ethical hacking is something that we need to look into extensively.
Do you think Nigeria is prepared for the cyber war?
From my opinion, I might be wrong. I think Nigeria has already been in cyber war. In fact, the war is still going on. What do you call Yahoo -Yahoo right now? That’s cyber war, right? That has been the trend happening now. What people don’t know is that we are actually the ones giving access to people. Imagine you getting a call to tell someone your pin over the phone. The person telling you he is from the bank which you should know that your bank will never call you with a customized phone number as the bank will stick to their key number. Or let’s say your account officer called you directly which you shouldn’t still give out your details. Your account officer would already have all this information, he wouldn’t need to call you for that. I feel that Nigeria is already going through that, and that is why I advise organizations companies to sort out for ethical hackers, licensed and verified ethical hackers because you could end up getting a problem into your house in the first place. Get a verified ethical hacker that you know about or you can search about them on the internet. Find out about all their service. Try them out and seal up security holes on your systems or server and then you can avoid getting involved in a cyber war. The same thing goes for individuals. What you share on your social media. They can pick a trend from what you always talk about. When you want to pick a password, you will definitely pick a word you remember. For instance, your social media you are always shouting major in everything, if the hacker wants to think of a way to get your password. The first thing that he will think of is your date of birth which you have published on social media or your birthday mixed up with the most popular phrase you use. Those things can easily be hacked.
One more thing is, when you are choosing a password, when you use numbers and alphabets together you are a little bit secured. When you use number, alphabet and symbol then you are secured. It will take a hacker a very long time to hack you. Before he is done trying to hack you, you have changed your password again so it will be like an infinite look for the person or for the person or the system they are using to try to hack you. It is always wise to secure your password for the mixtures of alphabets, characters and symbols. Mix them up as much as you can. Twist them around because hackers have a tool. They call it dictionary attack, with a dictionary attack or a program called kindly givers spacers. There is an operating system designed for hackers but it is for ethical hackers and we ethical hackers use that as penetration testing environment to test how a hacker would have done it. By that we would know how to prepare a solution for an organization or an individual. What we use that tool for is if they want to guess your password. They will put everything in and then launch that tool. That tool will start putting A, it will take A, take B ten take another A to mix up all the possible mixtures of alphabet that forms all the words that can be form an alphabet. It will pick A and stick to that A and then use every other alphabet to mix to form a word with two letter word. Use it to form three letter words or keep mixing automatically and this can be done within 10minutes. It happens with just millions of calculations in mini seconds. This tool exists “dictionary attack”. Now you might be there thinking you are safe because you have a couple of millions in your account and nobody is trying to hack you. They might be waiting for the bigger value to come in and you just get something funny that will just happen from nowhere. Secure yourself and stop putting sensitive things online. Your date of birth should be concealed not even to your family because your family can talk about it randomly with just a friend and somebody might be listening somewhere. They will keep it up and before you know it your friends posting on social media sending birthday shout out. Keep the year to yourself. You can talk about the day to share and have fun with your family but keep the year of birth or don’t ever use it for your password. If you disclose it, don’t ever mix it I your password. Forget about that and the next thing is you should never try to dispose your full names. For instance, if your name is 123, give them 1, 3 or give then 1, 2. Conceal the other one. That’s your secret. It can only be known among your colleagues as well. You can never tell reflex action when you might use that for a very sensitive password to anything that should be concealed from the public should be concealed from the public. Social media should not know everything about you.
Where is Tanta heading this year and what should your customers expect from you?
This year we have a lot of things coming on board. We have a lot of things we are releasing into the market. Expect turns of … and innovative solutions from Tanta this year. We have a solution we just developed for a company and it’s a very popular thing. Tayo Gabriels, he sews for celebrities’ suits, blazers… we created a solution where you can just go you his website design your suit yourself, how many buttons you want, where it should be. It is very easy and simple that a toddler can use it. You design your suit the way you want it, slim, fat, you want design a trouser or pant. If you want it to be slim, fat. When you are done, you make payment and measurement online. You don’t have to go to the tailor. In the next two to three days you get a courier service at your door step to deliver your suit and perfectly designed just the way you created it. This is the system the company is going to roll out very soon. So you should look out for it in months’ time online. But we are currently in test stage where we are testing the measurement platform. That solution is going to change the tailoring business and this is the first of its kind. We have innovations that will blow your mind because we are not called Tanta innovative just by name. We are not trying to sell the same thing that is already out there. We want to make it better, we want customers to be satisfied, have comfort right in their house. We want customers to feel secured with whatever solution we are setting as a Nigerian company. They should feel secure and safe to use it. That is all we want to achieve this year. We don’t want to create a share in the market and am very sure we will create a stare.