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Stakeholders calls for concerted efforts to address cyber threats

The Communication Authority of Kenya (CAK), in partnership with the Kenya Cyber Security and Forensics Association (KCSFA) and Huawei, has awarded the top finalists of the Nairobi Edition of the Cyber Security Bootcamp and Hackathon that brought together cyber security enthusiasts and ethical hackers to compete in various curated cyber security challenges in a game format.

The edition involved participants from different institutions from regional and national hackathon championships, with five regional competitions including Nairobi, Nyeri, Kisumu, Eldoret, and Mombasa, and a subsequent national competition during the October Cyber Security Awareness Month (OCSAM) conference.

Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja said that there is a need to think very hard about cyber security since data needs to remain secure and private, and its use must be proportionate and accountable.

“Digital government promises to be transformative and has the potential to be disastrous,” he said, noting that in Nairobi County, all payments are digital and not cash.

He added that the digital payment has attracted some malicious players, better known as black hackers, both within organisations, like insider threats, and also in the underground channels, better known as the darknet. 

Sakaja highlighted that in the past, the main focus of cyberattacks has been on financial institutions like banks. However, there has been a big shift in attacks aimed at small businesses, which are the centre of economic growth and prosperity in Nairobi and Kenya in general.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Chief Officer-Smart Nairobi, Tiras Wainaina Njoroge, Sakaja said that cyber security ought to be prioritised so as to protect infrastructure, services, and Kenyans’ data.

“This is especially important because Kenya, and Nairobi in particular, is a strategic hub and therefore a battleground where competing interests have an interest in gaining an edge. The more investment and interest we attract, the bigger a target we become,” he said.

According to the governor, capacity building in cyber security is a priority, emphasising the need to build a group of Kenyan experts capable of addressing emerging threats.

“I am so pleased by this initiative from the Communications Authority of Kenya and our generous partners abroad. I am delighted that with the young men and women here today, we have begun the task of building the wide cyber security expertise we need,” Sakaja said.

He said that it is important that the public sector be at the forefront of empowering business resilience by helping to identify, protect, detect, respond to, and recover from cyber-attacks.

Sakaja noted the need for collaboration among county governments, African countries, and their international partners, which will share expertise and experience and raise a strong collective defence against cyber threats.

“Close collaboration between bodies such as the Communication Authority and county governments will go a long way towards safeguarding and growing our digital economy,” he said.

Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) Director General and CEO Ezra Chiloba said that in 2018, cyber-attacks directed at Kenya stood at Sh7.7 million.

Chiloba added that in 2023, the attacks will have skyrocketed to a high of Sh444 million, ranking Kenya among the top three most targeted countries in the region, alongside South Africa and Nigeria.

In a speech read on his behalf by CA Director of Telecom, Postal and Courier, and Digital Economy Matano Ndaro, Chiloba said that hackathons provided a useful networking opportunity to stimulate ingenuity and creativity amongst people.

“Our work does not end here. We all need to continue working together as we face these many challenges, such as Cyber extortion, identity theft, impersonation, and other forms of online abuse that are now commonplace. We should continue the dialogue among all of us so that we can learn from each other,” he said.

Chiloba remarked that the Authority believes in nurturing innovations and building capacity through such events, which attract participants from the various universities and colleges.

“I am informed that the online call for participants for the Hackathon and Bootcamp attracted 6,000 University and College students from Nairobi County. Out of the 6,000, 31 were shortlisted to participate in the Bootcamp, while 80 were shortlisted to participate in the hackathon, and who are in this room this afternoon,” Chiloba said.

At the same time, Kenya Cyber Security and Forensic Association (KCSFA) Vice Chairman Fredrick Wahome said that the reason for the formation of the Association was to identify the number of cybercrimes in the country.

The Association has a working membership of 15 people who converge and educate people on cyber security. “We need to reach out to young people and equip them with cyber security skills because, without the skills, they tend to be criminals,” he said.

Huawei Southern Africa Senior Director Adam Lane said that 3,000 people in Nairobi registered for the bootcamp. He announced his visit to the University of Nairobi, where he had a discussion with the students on how Technology affects trust, which is very critical.

“The best way to keep trust is to understand the technology and the cyber security and develop software’s standards, “Lane said, and urged students to pay attention to global standards and ensure that they have picked a great field in their career.

By Peace Muthoka and Rebeccah Maria

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