Cyber Threats on the Rise with Increased Reliance on ICTs in the Mitigation of COVID-19 Pandemic

With ICT services splaying a crucial role in the mitigation of COVID-19 pandemic, cyber criminals have been exploiting vulnerable ICT systems for fraudulent gains.

According the quarterly sector statistics report covering July-September 2020 released by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) on Wednesday, there has been sharp increase in cyber threats during the period, with 35.1 million incidents detected, representing a 152.9 per cent jump.

‘‘This increase in cyber threat attacks detected was attributed to the move to working remotely and increased uptake of e-commerce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ notes the report in part.

During this period, there was an increase in child online abuse, online abuse and online fraud. Of these requests, 1.7% related to child online abuse, 36.2% being attributed to online abuse and 27.4% being linked to online fraud.

With a majority of school going children at home during the period, child abuse cases remained at a constant with possibility of children having unsupervised access to the Internet for education and socialization purposes.

‘‘Cyber bullying and Internet trolling cases were also on the rise, with these being used for malicious intent across Kenyan domains and social media platforms,’’ reads the report.

Of the 354 requests received by the National Computer Incident Response Team/Coordination Centre (National KE-CIRT/CC) from investigative agencies, 36.2 per cent being attributed to online abuse, 27.4 per cent linked to online fraud while 1.7 per cent was related to child online abuse.

In response to these incidences, the Authority issued 21,785 advisories to various stakeholders.

‘’The period witnessed a decrease in impersonation cases, which is attributed to increased awareness campaigns to the public across the print media, television and social media platforms, geared towards protecting digital footprints, as well as the operationalization of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, which is a deterrent measure,’’ the report indicates.

The report also shows that Kenyans continue to leverage mobile money transfer services as measure to curb COVID-19 with KSh. 735 billion transacted in the three months to September 2020.

The value of customer-to-business transfers during the period was an increase of 64.8 per cent compared to the preceding quarter.

‘‘As was the case last quarter, the values transacted on mobile money platforms continued to increase with the adoption of cashless payments aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19,’’ notes the report.

In the same period, there was an a 41.7 per cent increase in the payments for Government services with KSh. 12.3 billion transacted up from KSh. 8.7 billion in the previous quarter.

The total value of deposits also went up by 40.1 per cent to stand at KSh.888 billion up from KSh. 634 billion registered in the April-June period.

The period also saw 713.9 million person-to-person transfers valued at KSh.896 billion.

The number of mobile money agents and mobile money subscriptions agents also went up by 9.8 and 4.2 per cent to stand at 245,124 and 31.8 million subscriptions respectively.

The increased demand for ICT services also saw the number of active mobile subscriptions increase to 59.8 million up from 57 million, pushing the mobile (SIM) penetration to 125.8 per cent.

Total data/Internet subscriptions increased by 4.8 per cent to stand at 43.4 million with mobile data subscriptions accounting for 98.5 per cent of the total subscriptions. The positive growth of data/Internet is attributed to increased dependence on digital platforms for work, learning, healthcare, shopping and entertainment.

During the same period, the total used international bandwidth went up by 14.2 per cent to stand at 3,697.62 Gbps up from 3,238.21 Gbps in the previous quarter.

The ICT sector is expected to continue evolving rapidly with tech innovation, digital transformation and enhanced connectivity in the country.

‘‘As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, the importance of a robust and inclusive digital economy, together with reliable broadband services is imperative,’’ notes the report.

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