14 January 2019

Kenya: Cyberattacks Threaten Elections and Security, Kenyans Say

A majority of Kenyans are worried that cyberattacks will increase elections tampering and national security threats in future, according to a new survey.

A study carried out by American-based Pew Research Centre showed 73 percent of Kenyans believe that sensitive national security information will be leaked from cyberattacks, while 72 percent said such attacks are a recipe for election interference.

The research which was carried out in 26 countries globally, whose report was released over the weekend, also surveyed possibilities of cyberattacks on crucial public infrastructure such as power grids and telecommunication services.

Under this form of attack, 68 percent of Kenyans expressed a likelihood of damages to such infrastructure by hackers.

"There is general agreement across the 26 countries surveyed that all three forms of cyberattacks asked about are likely scenarios. Concerns about sensitive government information being hacked are especially widespread," the report says.

DIGITISATION

Generally in each country surveyed, more than 50 percent of respondents said a cyberattack that accesses confidential government data is likely to occur in their country in future.

However, it emerged that concerns about damage to public infrastructure are not as common as those about vulnerabilities in national security data.

The Jubilee government has been aggressive in digitising public services across all sectors since it came to power in 2013.

On the other hand, the country's electoral processes are gradually going electronic in tandem with requirements of electoral laws.

Currently, voter registration, identification, votes tallying and transmission of results are done electronically by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission while proposals of electronic voting have been suggested by several stakeholders.

CREDIBILITY

Claims about interference of elections data were among those relied upon by the National Super Alliance in their petition that led the Supreme Court to nullify President Uhuru Kenyatta's win after the August 8, 2017 presidential election.

The government, through the Ministry of Information Communications and Technology, launched a National Cybersecurity Strategy in 2014 aimed at securing the cyberspace.

Some of the potential threats identified by the government include attacks from foreign countries, hacktivists and criminal organisations, including terrorists, whose aim may be to access, alter, destroy or disrupt sensitive national information and infrastructure for financial or political gain.

The Pew survey showed that 56 percent of respondents in Kenya are convinced that the country is well-prepared to handle major cyberattacks as compared to 33 percent who were of a contrary view.

However, it adds that this view was influenced in part by respondents' attitudes toward the party in power.

The research was carried out through face to face interviews on a sample size of 1,039 in all regions except North Eastern, with a 5.1 percent margin of error.

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