By David Ngige
Kenya will assign each person using the internet a virtual identity to curb the rising tide of cyber crime.
Information PS Dr Bitange Ndemo said the ministry, through the Kenya ICT Board, would soon establish the public key infrastructure, which will allocate virtual identities to internet and digital services users. He said procurement has been completed and the project is now moving to the implementation phase.
“We are moving fast towards records automation and these systems need to be protected because some people have evil intentions,” Dr Ndemo said at a media briefing ahead of the East African Cyber Security Convention 2012 was held on December 4 and 5. “We will keep reviewing our policies and legislation to keep pace with technology.”
He said there has been a marked increase in cyber crime, especially targeted at banks, organisation registries and mobile services, and called for a joint effort of public and private sectors to counter the criminal acts.
Dr Ndemo said the government is building an ecosystem of cyber security, adding that a research team has been constituted at the Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) to come up with a counter-strategy.
He noted that many countries were using Kenya as an incubator for tech services like applications and the country needs to have a defence against cyber criminals like hackers to continue being the launch pad for IT services. “Cyber criminals seek to destroy or steal bank records, registries or even cash. You can imagine if they attacked, say, M-Pesa, which hold Sh5 billion at any moment. There would be chaos,” he said.
The East Africa cyber security convention brings together government and private sector players in IT, security and business to explore a common front for fighting cyber crime which, according to IT security services company McAfee, increased by 43 per cent in the third quarter globally and now tops $2.5 billion (Sh210 billion) in revenues.
Cyber Security Africa, which is organising the conference, says cyber threats have been identified as the most pressing challenge to the security of organisations in the region.
“With a few strokes of a keyboard, nation states, terrorist groups, stateless organisations and rogue individuals can launch a cyber-attack from anywhere, at any time, disrupting and damaging democracies and way of life,” said Sammy Kioko, Cyber Security Africa alliance manager.
“Due to the huge scope of cyber threats, it requires active engagement of all stakeholders, including companies in every industry segment.”
He said Cyber Security Africa has this year expanded its scope to include the Huawei Broaderway Forum, which is the main sponsor of the conference. The other partners are McAfee, SmoothTel, Sabric, Cloud Security Alliance, TESPOK, 3G, Eacademy Group and the Ministry of Information and Communications.
He said East Africa is uniquely positioned to become the first region in Africa to develop this model of cyber security. “Our region has unique elements, which if combined and leveraged effectively, can yield innovative cyber security solutions,” said Mr Kioko.
“These include a private sector with a global footprint and an understanding of corporate and international dimensions of cyber security, high tech industry segments that depend on securing assets, renowned research universities and faculty, and informed and engaged public policy leaders.”
McAfee account manager for East Africa Emmanuel Kimeu said the cyber warfare has gone global and even the United Nations has established a unit to deal with it. “Mobile devices, especially Android, are increasingly being targeted, and this will soon come to Kenya,” he said. “The underworld has become a big business.”