Analysts fear the increasing frequency of cyber attacks in Kenya could be a precursor to a larger assault that could deeply impact local businesses and the broader economy.
Kenya currently records up to 3,000 cyber-related crimes per month according to Paul Roy Owino, president of Information Technology, Security and Assurance (ISACA). Many expect this number to continue to increase due to the explosive growth of web-connected devices in the country.
As governments and businesses increase their online presence, the Internet is quickly becoming the next frontier for illegal activity. A recent cyber security report on Kenya says businesses are losing about $146m (£96m) every year to cyber-crime.
Owino says the incidents in the country range from banking fraud, money transfer (M-pesa), to interference with personal data by hackers.
Local cyber security experts in Kenya are warning of the need to regulate Internet use and management as a national security issue.
Last month, the Kenya Communication Authority (CA) established a Cyber Coordination Centre, aimed at curbing increasing threats posed by cyber-criminals in the country.
According to CA chairman Ngene Gituku, the center will work closely with international organizations to facilitate exchange of information, and knowledge needed to reduce vulnerabilities and react to attacks.
In April 2016, individuals claiming ties to hacktivist group Anonymous said they had begun to leak documents from Kenya’s foreign ministry as part of an operation to expose government and corporate corruption across Africa. After releasing a sample of 95 documents, they claimed it was a small piece of a one-terabyte database taken from Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
The sample documents included email discussions of security preparations for diplomatic trips, trade deals and other terrorism related status report.
Then, just one month later in May, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) received information that the bank and other government facilities could be the target of an imminent cyber-attack. In 2013, the CBK suffered a major breach when it’s website was taken over by a cyber-based group know as the Gaza Hacker Team.
Kenya is certainly not alone in its outsized growth in frequency of cyber attacks. Cyber-crime is estimated to cost the world economy more than $500 billion a year. Most recently, a high profile attack on 21 October targeting Dynamic Network Services Inc., a web-technology provider, stole headlines globally. The company suffered a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that resulted in some of the biggest sites on the Internet being disrupted, including Twitter, Netflix, PayPal and Spotify.
Of greater concern though is not frequency, but the growing level of sophistication. A report published in January 2016 by Arbor Networks, a software company, suggests attacks globally are getting more difficult to defend by the day.
Analyzing the evolving sophistication of hackers, the report explains that more than 200 of the reported cyber attacks in 2015 summoned 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) of traffic, with the largest of these clocking in at 500 Gbps.
To put that number in context, in 2014 Internet connectivity for the entire country of Kenya was about 500 Gbps.