The Computer Society of Kenya

Since 1986

Set data safety rules for cryptocurrency


After several days of biometric data collection from Kenyans by the promoters of the cryptocurrency project WorldCoin, the government belatedly moved to clamp down on the exercise on Wednesday, citing risks that had been highlighted repeatedly by cyber security experts.

This uncoordinated approach to a potential public risk—there is still no clarity over the security of the collected data—has exposed the government’s lack of a comprehensive policy when it comes to handling cryptocurrency.

Aside from the official cautions from the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) about the dangers of such investments, issuers are still allowed to sell coins to the public, with some being outright scams.

Now, the risk has evolved, to include data that is collected in the course of issuing such coins and other exercises such as WorldCoin’s registration.

The government agencies involved in the data chain should now craft a comprehensive plan on how to handle the question of data safety, and also conduct public awareness campaigns on the need to protect one’s sensitive personal data in the cyber world.


Stay alert to cyber-attack threats after Thursday

cybersecurityBUSINESS DAILY

On Thursday, Kenya once again suffered a major cyber-attack that hit thousands of government services.

At a time the government was shifting most of its services online through the eCitizen portal, the attack almost brought the economy to a standstill.

Banks’ mobile apps were not working and mobile money transactions were disrupted, leaving individuals and organisations with penalties due to missed due dates for various credit terms, including loans.

That the Thursday attempt is coming only weeks after revelations that Chinese hackers had also targeted the debt data should be a wake-up call since they almost succeeded in disabling the entire financial sector.

All relevant actors must always remain alert and ensure the country is secure. All the concerned agencies must realise that the world operates round the clock and any small hitch leaves huge losses that we cannot afford to ignore.


Cyber-attack on eCitizen platform cause of outage, says Owalo


The downtime being experienced on the eCitizen portal has been caused by hackers attempting to jam the portal through an overload of data requests, ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo has revealed.

Speaking during a morning show with a local radio station on Thursday morning, the CS said that no personal data had been accessed or lost and that every effort was being made to restore normalcy.

The kind of hacking experienced on the eCitizen portal is known as a Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, which disrupts a network, server or website by flooding it with meaningless internet traffic to prevent legitimate users from accessing services.

The CS revealed that the attack had been carried out by a group that identified itself as Anonymous Sudan.

“There was a cyber-attack on the eCitizen platform but no data was accessed or lost. We are addressing that, and we are not just coming up with instant remedial measures to address the current situation but are also ensuring that we build an elaborate risk mitigation framework,” said the CS.

“In this instance, they tried jamming the system by making more requests into the system than ordinary, which led to the slowing down of the system.”


Why self-checkout tech can transform Kenya retail services


Kenya’s retail sector is attractive to local and foreign investors. Despite the disruptions and supply chain issues across the world, the Boston Consulting Group, the Future of Traditional Retail in Africa report estimates that supermarkets and tier one retail will account for between 25 percent and 35 percent of all sales in Kenya.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the sector has contributed upwards of nine percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the past five consecutive years.

Recent technological advancements have further heightened the enormous promise within retail. The rise of e-Commerce and e-Mobility has made shopping easier than ever, and heightened interactions between customers and retailers.

Retailers have a wealth of digital data at their fingertips that can accurately identify customer pain points and create solutions, giving rise to services that enhance the overall shopping experience.

However, even as its growth surpasses expectations, the retail sector is still grappling with several issues that need to be addressed.


Agency issues 26 new broadcasting licences


Competition in Kenya's broadcasting space has intensified after the communications regulator issued 26 new licences to TV and radio broadcasters in the three-month period to March.

This brings the total number of licensees to 616, a 4.4 percent rise from the 590 in December.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA)'s third-quarter sector statistics show that of the 26 licences, 12 were issued to commercial free-to-air television stations, 10 to commercial FM radio stations and four to community FM radio operators.

During the review period, the CA says it assigned a total of 14 FM sound broadcasting frequencies to broadcasters, translating to a two-fold addition to the seven assigned in the October-December period last year.

“During the period under review, the Authority assigned frequencies to various operators for deployment of 81 microwave links and processed the decommissioning of 23 fixed links. Further, the Authority assigned 14 FM sound broadcasting frequencies to broadcasters.”


Communications Authority sets date for rollout of digital radio technology


The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) will roll out a pilot for a new digital radio standard before December next year as it moves to address the shortage of analogue frequencies which it says are close to saturation.

The Digital Sound Broadcasting (DSB) framework, whose preliminary implementation will feature Nairobi and its environs, will enable broadcasters to use their current spectrum to transmit signals.

DSB is a high-definition radio transmission network that converts analogue audio into a digital signal.

In a presentation outlining the road map for the shift execution, the CA says the pilot targets minimising implementation risks before confirming investor commitments as well as to raise awareness.

“Planning and implementation of DSB trial network in Nairobi and environs including funding, objectives, authorisation, terms and conditions, commissioning, installation and monitoring has a timeline schedule of between March 2023 and December 2024,” reads the document in part.


The blind spots in the Safaricom's plan to become a technology company by 2025


We are from the annual reporting sprint in Kenya, waiting on expectantly across sectors to give a pulse on prospects, problems, and pivots from companies of interest.

As one of the most profitable companies in the East and Central Africa region, Safaricom's report always draws attention.

Apart from its continued stellar performance financially, it has good things going for it, for example, taking the honours in LinkedIn's 2022 Top Companies ranking.

It means the company resonates well with two key publics - customers and staff.

That said, the stock has taken a beating as international investors exit their positions, market dynamics have resulted in downward price reviews across various services, and Ethiopia presents political, regulatory, currency, and infrastructure risks.

Single-market operations for any business at scale hit a plateau at one point or another from saturation or competition.


680 certified data handlers registered in two months


The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) has issued an additional 680 compliance certificates to data handlers in the last two months, bringing the total number of approved entities to 2,303.

The registration commenced on July 14 last year following the enactment of regulations by Parliament requiring all entities handling the personal information of individuals in Kenya to register as data processors and controllers.

In January this year, Data Protection Commissioner Immaculate Kassait launched the Data Protection Registration System that gave applicants the latitude to take personal charge of the registration, a move that has speeded up the compliance rates compared to the numbers recorded last year.

Prior to the launch of the system, only 1,417 entities had been certified in a six-and-a-half-month registration drive.

The system allows eligible entities to go to the ODPC website, apply for registration, have their documents verified and have a digital certificate issued, with registration costs ranging between Sh4,000 and Sh40,000.


Bank run scare on CBK plan to issue digital currencies


Kenyan financial industry players, including banks, have warned that issuing a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) may spark the collapse of an unspecified number of banks as customers rush to convert their money from the current form of deposits.

A document by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) incorporating feedback from diverse sources such as individuals, public institutions and commercial banks shows many of them are concerned about the possibility of the digital currency triggering a bank run.

The regulator agrees with the many concerns, saying the rollout of the digital currency should not be “a race to be first” and that this form of currency may not be a priority in Kenya “in the short to medium term.”

The Kenyan version of the CBDC, whose introduction has been under debate for the last few years, prompted the CBK to issue a discussion paper in February last year but the feedback points to more threats than opportunities.


Banks' digital shift roadmap


The Central Bank of Kenya recently released its latest edition of the banking supervision report shedding light on the country's fast-changing financial services sector.

The report notes that commercial banks in Kenya continue to invest billions of shillings in resources towards digital transformation with profitable outcomes.

The value of total deposits held by commercial banks rose 9 percent from Sh4.6 trillion in 2021 to Sh5 trillion last year which has been attributed to the mobilisation of funds through digital platforms.

On the other hand, microfinance banks reported a Sh200 million loss in income cumulatively largely on the back of competition from digital lenders.

According to the CBK, the majority of commercial banks in Kenya consider themselves as either better banks (institutions that leverage fintech to digitise operations) or as distributed banks (institutions that partner with fintech start-ups to digitise operations).

More than 85 percent of the banks surveyed indicated that these two strategic outlooks inform their digital transformation journeys.


ATM numbers down to 2,301 as digital transactions take over


Banks shut down an additional 65 automated teller machines (ATMs) last year as the increased uptake of digital transactions reduces the need for physical cash dispensers.

This took down the ATMs in service to a new low of 2,301 in the review period.

The biggest drop in the number of ATMs was seen in 2018 when 296 of the machines were closed.

The reduction in ATMs continued, standing at 70, 47 and 46 in 2019, 2020 and 2021 respectively, according to data from the Central Bank of Kenya.

“The decrease in ATMs in 2022, is as a result of the adoption of agency, mobile and digital banking in the banking industry,” the CBK said in its 2022 Bank Supervision Annual Report.

Banks have invested heavily in digital services as a means of cutting operating costs and enhancing customer service.

This has enabled them to grow their customer base without the need to invest a lot in physical assets such as branches and ATMs as was the case in earlier decades.


Kabarak cyberattack: Key lessons security gatekeepers can pick


A fortnight ago, newspaper and blog headlines were awash with details of the takeover of Kabarak University’s Facebook page by a hacker who claimed to be a student from an IT-based high school in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The latest cybercrime that has rattled corporate institutions’ cyber security management in the country came hot on the heels of yet another similar attack that had targeted supermarket chain Naivas in a case of ransomware attack.

The act, committed by an online criminal organisation identified as Threat Actor, saw Naivas’ data get compromised to an unknown extent before the attack was contained.

The two incidents, still freshly reeling on the minds of corporate and other institutional cybersecurity gatekeepers have rekindled the long-held debate about online safety and security assurances.

Social media accounts, especially those owned by prominent persons, celebrities, government agencies and giant companies have for long been favourite targets of hackers keen to use the platforms for extortion of disinformation.


Crypto, NFTs tax signals Kenya’s softening stance


Kenya’s plan to introduce a three percent tax on cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has sparked mixed reactions.

While some financial analysts argue that the tax on the transfer of digital assets could stifle the nascent industry, crypto experts say that in treating these investments as property for tax purposes, Kenya is finally recognising them, hence arousing investors’ interests.

“Taxation is a clear recognition of this asset class. Taxation is welcome, crypto investment is not a means to run away from tax but rather an advanced form of exchange. Essential governance will, therefore, create greater accessibility, transparency, and growth,” says Avhit Bij, a blockchain and crypto expert.

Globally, there has been a strong appetite for new rules to shape the future of the industry and tighten the grip on investors.

“Africa too can become a hub for blockchain and crypto if it creates favourable systems. The likes of El Salvador are making bitcoins legal tender, and Belgium and Iceland are having high tax brackets on gains. Tax-friendly countries with supportive regulations in the crypto space are seen to have a broader outlook on the future of this asset,” says Mr Bij.


We’ve been hacked! What do we do? A simple guide to being safe

Kenya has started to become more aware of the dangers of cyberattacks due to their increased frequency in recent years. Naivas Supermarkets took the commendable step of informing the public about their recent cyberattack and urging customers to be cautious in case the attackers attempt any further action. As cybersecurity experts suggest, the consequences of a cyberattack can be long-lasting.

For the general public, particularly those who are not tech-savvy, it is important to take steps to protect their data if it has been compromised. When Naivas released their communication, I had a conversation of the looming impact of the cyberattack with my house manager. She expressed concern about losing the shopping points and loyalty points that she receives from her mobile service provider.

This is likely a common concern for many in Kenya. But the impact of the cyberattack could be more severe.

To increase awareness among the public, there needs to be continuous efforts to simplify the technical language used in cybersecurity. It is essential to communicate this information in a way that is easily understandable for non-tech-savvy individuals. In my opinion, there is a need to improve cyber awareness among the public to better protect personal and financial information.


Regulator allowed to install mobile phone spying gadget


The communications regulator has received the nod of the Supreme Court to instal a device on mobile phone networks to detect counterfeits amid concerns it will give the watchdog access to other customer data, including calls, messages and financial transactions.

The apex court has dismissed a second appeal seeking to stop the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) from rolling out the Device Management System (DMS), which telcos reckon will offer the State a window to snoop on subscribers.

The regulator denies that the DMS has the capacity to access the phone records, location, and mobile money transaction details of subscribers, insisting that the technology can only detect and record the unique identification number of mobile phones and assigned subscriber numbers.

But Safaricom raised concerns that the monitoring devices will give the regulator access to other customer data held by the telecoms operators.


Kenya slow to ride on AI to turbocharge its innovations


Is Kenya ready for a more sophisticated debate about artificial intelligence (AI), and its potential to spur economic growth?

AI is the key to turbocharging innovation but few sectors are utilising it.

According to the Government AI Readiness 2022 index report, Kenya is ranked 90th out of 182 countries globally, and behind Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia, and Morocco. Its total score is 40.36 percent.

Peter French, general manager for Africa and the Middle East at Acronis, a technology company, says that the integration of AI in the Kenyan financial sector, for instance, will make firms more competitive in terms of product development and customer experience.

“Most importantly, the use of AI will enable lenders to significantly enhance their digital banking strategies in terms of keeping data breaches at bay and boosting fraud detection as well as other emerging threats. Financial institutions’ ability to detect and prevent fraud and cyberattacks is arguably one of the most crucial benefits of AI adoption, especially in the wake of heightened online banking,” Mr French tells the Business Daily.


History as Taifa-1 satellite goes live

satelliteDAILY NATION By Mary Wambui 

Tuesday April 11, 2023

Kenyans will today witness the launch of Taifa-1 satellite from a large screen set up at the University of Nairobi as Falcon-9 rocket lifts off from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, USA, from around 9am.

The rocket is scheduled to transport several satellites including Taifa-1 into orbit, detach and return to the ground all in a span of 8.5 minutes, an experience that will be transmitted live from SpaceX’s Mission Control Centre.

Space experts, students and enthusiasts will follow the event live from a large screen mounted at the University of Nairobi’s Taifa hall where a panel of experts will be explaining the unfolding events and the importance of the satellite to agriculture and the nation’s socio-economic development.

Kenya Space Agency’s technical team will be monitoring the mission at the agency’s headquarters in Nairobi and at the Malindi Space Station.


Saccos to invest Sh800m in a joint ICT platform


The Co-operative Alliance of Kenya (CAK) has launched an Sh800 million technology platform to ensure the safety of depositors’ funds in savings and credit cooperative organisations (sacco) in the wake of growing fraud.

The Co-opTech platform, a financial technology company owned by the cooperative lobby, will oversee the security of depositors’ funds through a shared platform that will be used by all saccos in their daily transactions.

Launching the platform on Thursday, Co-operative Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said the creation of the platform was long overdue as the idea had been conceptualised way back.

“The system will ensure the security of depositors' funds in saccos and assure them of the safety of their money in accounts,” said Mr Chelugui.

He said technology has become a driving force behind change in every industry and plays an integral role in sustaining co-operatives by offering the ability to manage resources, improve efficiency and create products and solutions in line with their needs.

Saccos will own the platform by buying shares. Small ones will pay between Sh350,000 and Sh500,000 while the big boys will part with up to Sh10 million as a one-off payment.

“Saccos pay up to Sh1.5 billion every year to different service providers who offer them a technology platform to protect deposits of their members,” said Daniel Marube, chief executive officer of CAK.

Mr Marube said the new platform will save money, which the saccos can use to extend loans to their members at affordable rates.


American tycoons scout for ICT, agritech deals in Nairobi


American investors have given priority to deals in ICT, apparel and agriculture after the Biden administration targeted Kenya as a key trading partner on the continent to “develop durable solutions that advance supply chain resilience” for the world’s largest economy.

The businessmen attending a two-day investment meeting in Nairobi are scouting for multibillion-shilling deals with Kenyan firms in the presence of President William Ruto on Thursday, organisers said.

The majority of the US entrepreneurs, who have been accompanied by top Biden administration trade officials for Africa, are largely hunting for deals in ICT, agricultural technology as well as apparel and textiles, the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham)-Kenya said.

Maxwell Okello, the AmCham Kenya chief executive, said ICT remains the biggest area of interest for the US investors at a time Nairobi is “slowly bringing into a reality” its ‘Silicon Savanna’ tech hub dream.

“We see depth in terms of American companies participating in or looking at that space [ICT],” Mr Okello said on the sidelines of the two-day AmCham Business Summit which started on Wednesday.


Is blockchain the key to foolproofing deals?


The biggest headache in any property transaction is the assurance beyond any doubt that the title that an investor holds is genuine and holds true to the promise of ownership as printed on the paper.

Investors often go to lengths to ensure that a title is legit through numerous searches of property records at the Ministry of Land to ascertain the authenticity of the title of a unit they intend to purchase.

Many a time, this process is still not foolproof enough and some investors find themselves on the wrong end of the sanctity of the title they are holding.

Nothing is more disastrous to a buyer than to expense their resources only to find that after payments have been made and property assumed to have exchanged hands, the title was a fake and they have been duped into buying a none existent property.

The courts are awash of incidences and cases of fake titles or titles issued in duplicates where one property has more than one title and one or two buyers or more have been conned into the same property.


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