Emmanuel Chima Opara, better known as @Blacb is a Nigerian-born American computer programmer and ethical hacker. With degrees in computer science and mathematics, he has, over the years, made a significant contribution to the potential of people in using computers. His first game app, ‘Chike’, was launched on Apple’s iConnect in 2015, making him the first Nigerian to develop and design a mobile game app on an iOS device. ROTIMI IGE caught up with him in a recent interview, where he talked about his love for technology, how it can be a fight in security.
Tell us a bit of your early memories of family life?
I don’t have much to say really. I grew up with just my sister. It was just the two of us. My family didn’t have much, but my mother made sure we went to school. We were okay as a family but not as okay as the average family of today. I was 10 years old when my father passed away. Things got tough, but God saw us through till this day.
How and when did your interest in computing and security begin?
I think my interest in computer began when I was nine years old. I used to dismantle things like radios, cable boxes, phones and put them back to together. I remember disassembling my father’s working radio and putting it back together. I was flogged for that.
My interest in security began right after college. I used to be a programmer before switching to cyber and now pursuing a career in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning (DL).
Your CV in cyber security is quite impressive. You graduated from good schools abroad and interned with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in America. At a time when various countries across the world are battling insecurity at various levels, how do you think technology can be to stem the tide?
With the use of AI technology, we can gather data, trace threats, search for vulnerabilities, respond to breaches and reduce technology workloads.
Sadly, cybercrime is also one of Nigeria’s largest exports and banks are daily hacked. With your experience, what can be done?
No one can stop hacking from happening. Organizations should understand that patching helps reduce the risk and when I say ‘patching’, I mean running updates.
Do you have any plans to someday trade your talent in your motherland?
Perhaps but that will be years down the line but not anytime soon.
Tech hubs especially in fintech are springing up fast in Africa and Nigeria is getting the lion share of seed funding. What potentials do you see for the industry and how important must they consider data privacy and protection seeing as hackers constantly attack their firmware? Do you think that our tech start-ups are doing enough?
I think they are all doing great! You have 4TraderX, PiggyVest, Paga expanding into Mexico; that is huge for the country.
What other projects are you involved in?
I am currently involved in a surveillance project.
You are very passionate about education for Nigerian youths. Expand on this please?
Education develops critical thinking; it helps meet basic job qualifications. An educated person uses logic when making decisions and interacting with people.
My parents were both teachers; they taught mathematics and sciences. They both made education a priority for me that when I came fifth in a class of 37 pupils (students), I was flugged and starved that evening.
Education should be more important than anything else in any country. In the US, Nigerians are the most educated residents (source: US Consult) with 59 per cent of them having at least a bachelor’s degree.
If Nigerians in Nigeria had better opportunities, you’ll have more educated youths in business, tech, healthcare, finance etc.
If you had three wishes for Nigeria, what would they be?
I just have one wish – Nigeria to be harmonious.
What do you do in your spare time?
I do research on emerging new technologies.
How has CHIKE prepared you for future projects?
I’d say I prepared me in a different way other than just using codes to develop games, I expanded in creating malware codes not in a bad way; I don’t sell my codes, I create them for educational purposes and of course I have their Killswitch. People can follow me on @blacb for any information/engagement. Cheers.
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