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Kenya reporting surge in cyber attacks with
growth in Internet and Mobile Money usage

by Bedah Mengo NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- "Don’t send money on the other phone number, use this line." This is a message many Kenyans have received on their mobile phones lately.

It is among the most circulated in the country by fraudsters, targeting mobile-money users, and many people have fallen for it and lost cash.

Cybercriminals in the east African nation have devised many ways to steal from mobile-money and internet users, both corporates and individuals.

Increased internet usage, mobile-money ubiquity and the spread of cashless services in Kenya seem to have created a perfect environment for the cybercriminals to thrive.

At the end of December 2018, Kenya’s total number of active internet subscriptions stood at 46 million, up from 33 million of a year earlier, according to the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA).

One of the things that have contributed to the rise in internet use is increased adoption of smartphones and social media.

Many government and private organizations like banks have also automated their services, making it convenient for citizens to use the internet.

On the other hand, mobile money use continues to soar, with Kenya’s 45 million subscribers transacting a record 1.06 trillion shillings (about 10.6 billion U.S. dollars) in the first quarter of 2019, up from 36 billion dollars for the whole year in 2018, according to the Central Bank.

Some of the organizations increasingly targeted by fraudsters, in addition to ordinary Kenyans, are banks, savings and credit societies, government agencies and telecommunication companies.

Kenyan companies lost 300 million dollars to cybercriminals last year, up from 210 million dollars in 2017, as the fraudsters stepped up their activities, Serianu, a firm that monitors cyber-attacks, said on Tuesday.

"This includes 80 million dollars in direct cost from money lost in attacks or ransom paid to free up stolen data and over 200 million dollars in indirect costs involving buying of equipment and software, training personnel and monitoring systems to prevent attacks," noted Serianu chief executive William Makatiani.

The attacks organizations in Kenya face include data breaches, data manipulation, email phishing, abuse of privilege access and system misconfigurations.

In the last quarter of 2018, according to the latest CA data, there was an increase in the number of cyber threats in Kenya, with attacks standing at over 10.2 million in the three months, compared to 3.8 million in the previous quarter.

Banks and credit societies are some of the easy targets, according to Serianu, with attackers leveraging on database manipulation.

Peter Chacha, a journalist in Nairobi, is among ordinary Kenyans who have recently lost cash to fraudsters.

For the past one week, Chacha has been frequenting his bank trying to figure out how 200 dollars was withdrawn from his account, although he did not do the transaction.

"The bank has informed me it is investigating and that in case I was not involved, I would get my money back," he said on Wednesday.

"I am hopeful all will go well."

To help curb fraud, Kenyan banks and telecommunication firms are educating the public on how to stop the crime, reminding customers to secure their bank and mobile-money passwords and report scam messages.

Bernard Mwaso of the Nairobi-based Edell IT Solution noted that with increased internet and mobile-money usage, cybercrime is to stay.

"Increased consumer awareness and tightening of cyber security is the way to go to help curb the fraud but criminals are always ahead of their victims," he said.

"That is why in Kenya, even large organizations like the telecoms are struggling to keep up with the frequency and complexity of attacks targeting the firms themselves and their customers," Mwaso said.


Kenya launches digital economy blue print for Africa at Transform Africa Summit

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Wednesday launched a digital economy blue print for Africa, aimed at guiding African countries towards the adoption of digital technologies in order to participate and thrive in the digital global economy.

The digital blue print outlines five pillars for the development of the digital economy, which are digital infrastructure, presence and use of digital services platforms to enable public service delivery, digital business, innovation-driven entrepreneurship and digital skills and values, said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the launch during the opening of the 5th edition of Transform Africa Summit, in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

He called on African states to adopt the blue print to achieve accelerated digital transformation on the continent.

The blue print highlights "crosscutting issues" such as legal and policy frameworks, emerging technologies and data management, he said.

"Kenya is ready to share with Africa, our experiences, and learn from each other and to work together in our journey towards digital and economic transformation on the continent," the president said.

The summit that runs through Friday has brought together about 4,000 participants including policymakers, regulators, young innovators and officials from Africa and beyond.

Presidents of Rwanda and Mali as well as the secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union were also present at the summit.

Humanoid robot Sophia addresses Africa technology summit in Rwanda

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Humanoid robot Sophia on Wednesday addressed the 5th edition of Transform Africa Summit, one of the largest ICT forums on the continent, in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

"If we work together humans and robots can build a prosperous and harmonious world. We don’t have to look very far to see how artificial intelligence is already shaping societies and economies for the better," said Sophia at the official opening of the summit.

African startups are already working to address shortages of doctors in rural areas while others are working to increase food security using drones and satellite to predict weather patterns and monitor crops, said the robot.

Africa is also a great source of technological innovations that are playing a key role in improving the lives of people, especially through mobile banking, remote medicine and remote devices that detect explosives, it said.

According to the summit program, Sophia is scheduled to headline discussions about artificial intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution.

Sophia, who is now a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was developed by a Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics.

The summit that runs through Friday has brought together about 4,000 participants including policymakers, regulators, young innovators and officials from Africa and beyond, who are expected to discuss taking advantage of information and communication technology to boost the continent’s economy.

The forum dubbed "Boosting Africa’s Digital Economy" has also attracted presidents of Kenya, Rwanda and Mali, as well as the secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at the opening that economic transformation and prosperity require mastery of technology, adding that it is the time to build the necessary infrastructure and skills in Africa.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta emphasized the role of education for people to take advantage of opportunities presented by technology.



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