A report by Reuters released on Wednesday, May 24, exposed how Chinese hackers were targeting the Kenyan government over its ballooning debt advanced by the Chinese government.
The report indicated that the hacking spanned years of contravention of cyber security laws.
In particular, the hackers targeted key ministries and state institutions, according to the report prepared by Reuters in conjunction with a cybersecurity research team.
“The hackers aimed at least in part, at gaining information on debt owed to Beijing by the East African nation,” the report stated in part.
On May 20, 2023, the Treasury reported that China's total debt to Kenya totalled Ksh793 billion, mostly borrowed for infrastructural projects.
With China not giving out its figures for the debt, the report painted that the hackers harboured suspicion of the figures in the public domain.
"Further compromises may occur as the requirement for understanding upcoming repayment strategies becomes needed," the report indicated a second motive for the attack.
The Chinese foreign ministry dismissed the report, maintaining that it was unaware of any hacking from the Chinese mainland targeting Kenya.
China's embassy in Britain also spoke against the Reuters report, stating that its government opposed and combatted cyber-attacks and theft in all their forms.
At the time of publication, the Kenyan government had not issued a statement concerning the alleged hacks on its institutions.
Hacking in Kenya is illegal and punishable under the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Bill 2018.
On Cybersecurity, the Act states, “Any person who operates a computer system or network whether private or public has an obligation to immediately report to the National Computer and Cybercrimes Coordination Committee any attacks, intrusions, and other disruptions to the functioning of the computer system within 24 hours.”
As stipulated in the Act, the fine for cybercrime-related activities should not exceed Ksh3 million, an imprisonment term of up to ten years, or both.
Meanwhile, China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin, on Monday, April 10, refuted claims that Beijing trapped Kenya with debts. He explained that the loans offered assisted the country and other African partners grow their economies through development projects.
However, on Thursday, May 18, China declined to forgive foreign loans issued to developing nations after being pressured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Beijing asked the two international financial institutions to lead by example before China follows suit.
As of October 2022, Kenya owed China Ksh779 billion, 18.1 percent of the East African country's Ksh4.299 trillion external debt.
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