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Kenya on FBI radar over rampant cybercrime

Kenya is on the radar of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a source of scams and destination of funds obtained from cyber financial fraud.

A new Interpol report released on August 14 on online organised crime in Africa which shows how digitisation is making it easier for criminals, and Interpol ranks Kenya among the countries where transnational criminal organisations operate.

The report estimates that Kenyans lost Sh21 billion to cyber and cyber-enabled crimes in 2017.

The economic loss in Africa due to cyber attacks reached Sh350 billion.

In Nigeria, the number reached Sh65 billion and Sh16 billion in South Africa.

The report further reveaed that cyber crime losses in Kenya reportedly amounted to an estimated $295 million in 2018, with Business Email Compromise (BEC) being one of the main ways used to defraud local businesses.

Criminals hack and impersonate corporate email accounts to defraud companies into sending money or sensitive data to the attacker’s account.

Operation reWired was a 2019 effort by the FBI in cooperation with other countries to disrupt and dismantle international BEC schemes.

It resulted in the arrest of 281 people globally, including from Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana, as well asa number of European, Asian and North American countries.

In addition to the Fairfax County US$500 000, nearly US$3.7 million was seized and almost US$120m disrupted and recovered in illicit BEC wire transfers.

A report by pan-African-based cyber-security and business consulting firm Serianu indicated that Kenya lacked the technical manpower to provide cyber security.

Before the passing of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act in 2018, Kenya already had laws that addressed cybercrime offences, such as the Information and Communications Act and the Penal Code.

In Kenya, any phishing offence such as BEC is punishable by a fine not exceeding Sh3 million and/or imprisonment not exceeding three years.

In recent months, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations has been constantly warning members of the public to be extra careful when dealing with individuals who run online businesses.

In a series of tweets, the DCI noted that there was a new crop of fraudsters selling non-existent products by circulating phishing emails.

According to the DCI, the scammers use captivating words then ask potential customers to click on a provided link, after which personal information is harvested.

“The internet is full of websites that are either fake, fraudulent or a scam. If you’re not careful while using the internet you can end up getting scammed out of your money, or worse, your identity,” the statement read in part.

DCI further gave details on how members of the public can identify fake websites.