East African member states are fast-tracking the implementation of joint initiatives to combat rising challenge of cross-border cyber crimes that are a threat to peace and stability in the region. Government officials admitted East Africa is vulnerable to a range of online criminal activities including financial fraud, drug and human trafficking and terrorism.

“There is need to develop a common platform to address cyber security. As a region, we must begin to cooperate to deal with cyber threats at national and regional levels,” Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Information Ministry Dr. Bitange Ndemo told East African Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi on Tuesday.

The East African nation has scaled up efforts to combat cyber crimes through a multi-stakeholder approach involving the government, industry and civil society organisations. “Kenya has a National cyber security steering committee hosted by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK). The law enforcement agencies and industry players are included in this initiative,” Ndemo disclosed.

He regretted cyber crimes have significantly reversed gains made by higher internet penetration in Kenya. Kenya has taken a leading role in galvanizing regional efforts to fight cyber crimes.

According to Ndemo, a cyber security management task force chaired by Kenya has been coordinating activities aimed at rooting out cyber crimes in the five East African Community member countries.

“This taskforce deal with cyber security at legal, policy and regulatory level,” said Ndemo.

Cyber attacks are a recurrent phenomenon in the East African region due to infrastructural, legal and policy loopholes.

Chris Mulola, the President of Internet Society of Rwanda, cited a study done by an international auditing firm, Deloitte and Touche, which revealed 60 percent of east African banks are susceptible to cyber crimes.

“The estimated cost of combined threats of cyber crimes to financial institutions in the region was estimated at 245 million U.S.dollars,” said Mulola.

He called for the establishment of bodies to monitor and report cyber crimes across the borders.

“Lawmakers must also be involved to help implement legislation that addresses cyber threats at all levels,” Mulola added.

East African States are currently addressing cyber crimes on a broader scope through innovative partnerships involving governments, security agencies, industry and civil society organizations.

Joseph Nzano, an E-security Officer at CCK, revealed states are coordinating response to cyber crimes at regional level.

“There is an East African Communications Organizations (EACO) cyber security taskforce chaired by Kenya to address this challenge for the long haul,” Nzano said.

He told Xinhua that Kenya has taken a lead in the establishment of national computer emergency response teams endorsed by all East African Countries.

“We are focusing on research to improve security of existing systems while monitoring cyber security events globally.

Capacity building, cooperation with law enforcement agencies and linkages with internet service providers, telecom operators and software suppliers have emboldened efforts to curb cyber threats,” said Nzano. (Xinhua)


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