Chebukati admits hackers attacked IEBC servers

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has admitted hackers attempted to breach its systems to steal crucial information ahead of the 2017 election.

Chairman Wafula Chebukati told the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs committee that people intending to steal data attempted to access IEBC servers last year.

“Attempts were made but our systems were not penetrated because of secure firewalls and other security systems," Chebukati told members of the committee led by Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga.

This was the first time the commission, which has in the recent past denied reports that there have been attempts to compromise its systems, admitted that persons with bad intentions had tried to break into its servers to steal crucial data ahead of the next elections.

Chebukati however did not reveal the identities of the people who tried to hack into the IEBC system. He said the servers were well protected and not easily penetrated.

"We want to know if the allegations that some Russians attempted to access IEBC systems are true," said Bumula MP Boniface Otsula.

Talk of hackers has gained currency in recent days, with politicians, among them National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale, calling for investigations and the punishing of those behind the attempted attacks.

Detectives are said to be on the trail of key suspects said to be behind the well-organised gang reportedly working with two Russians and an American to develop codes to access IEBC data.

Meanwhile, Chebukati, who was accompanied by Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba, expressed fears that the commission may not meet the timelines set out by the law on the procurement of ballot papers.

He said the commission was required to have delivered ballot boxes by April 10, but noted that a High Court ruling in a case challenging the procurement process had interfered with their time frames.

The IEBC boss asked the MPs to move an amendment to the election laws to alter the time frames for the procurement of the ballot papers.

"We are proposing to move the April 10 deadline, which requires four months' procurement of technology before elections, to at least two months," said Chebukati.

Mr Chiloba said the earliest the Commission could sign the contract for the supply of ballot papers was mid-April.

"Friday is the last day for evaluation of the tender. We still have seven days of review and then another 14 mandatory days to notify of the award. So the earliest we can sign the contract is April 15," he said.

The issue of data hacking rekindles memories of the 2013 elections when key politicians claimed that the IEBC system had been infiltrated with the intention of compromising the result of the General Election.

In the current case, both the Opposition and the Government have challenged IEBC to assure Kenyans that its systems are secure and capable of delivering credible and verifiable results in the August 8 polls.

It was the first time IEBC was appearing before the committee since its seven members were sworn in.

The commission has had to deal with a number of hurdles in the run-up to the election, including pending bills of Sh200 million arising from an extension of the voter registration exercise by five days.