State mulls stiff penalties for cybercrime

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo has told the Senate that the Government is currently reviewing laws governing cybersecurity and the ICT sector to align them with emerging realities.

Owalo told the Senate ICT Committee sitting in Nairobi that the most notable are the Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998, and the development of subsidiary legislation for the Computer Misuse and Cybercrime Act.

He said that the ongoing legal reform will where necessary facilitate the enhancement of penalties against cybercrime, including online child sexual exploitation.

“An inter-ministerial and inter-agency committee is spearheading this exercise, the key players involved besides the Ministry of Information and Communications Authority are the Ministry of Interior and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, among others,” said Owalo.  

The CS told the Committee chaired by Trans Nzoia Senator Allan Chesang that the Government through the Communication Authority has executed two national child online protection campaigns.

The first phase of this campaign dubbed 'Be the Cop' was launched in 2015 to sensitize parents, guardians and teachers on the dangers that exist online and to encourage responsible internet usage, the campaign also sought to trigger other child online protection initiatives in Kenya.

Owalo said the campaign involved several stakeholders including the Department of Children Services, The Cradle, Kenya Girl Guides Association, Kenya Scouts Association, Kenya Association of Professional Counsellors, UNICEF, Google Kenya, Plan International, Terre de Hommes, Childline Kenya, GSMA and mobile service providers Telkom, Airtel, Safaricom and AFRALTI.

The CS told the committee that the second phase of the child online protection campaign carried out in September 2021 was geared towards the implementation of strategic activities that would have a long-term impact on children.

“Through this campaign, the Government, through the Communication Authority executed a three-month media and social media campaign to engage and educate children and the youth on child online protection and safety issues,” said Owalo.

He said that the Government has continued to reinforce public awareness on child online safety through various annual outreach activities, including the Safer Internet Day, Kenya National Music Festival (Annual Event), Kenya National Drama Festival (Annual Event), County ICT Consumer forums (Kikao Kikuu), TV and radio talk shows, Vocational Bible Study Programmes held at various churches.

Owalo noted that through CA, the government leads the national commemoration of the October Cyber Security Awareness Month (OCSAM), which is a collaborative effort that brings together public and private sectors with the goal of raising awareness of cyber safety through empowering consumers with the knowledge, skills and values to safeguard themselves online.

The CA has commemorated OCSAM for the past four consecutive years during which the Government has developed and implemented various initiatives that are geared towards enhancing collective cyber-readiness and resilience, targeting various audiences including professionals, students, children, parents and guardians, as well as the elderly and youth.

“Cybersecurity awareness creation and capacity building are key strategic pillars toward enhancing the collective cyber readiness and resilience and thus support the realisation of Kenya's digital transformation agenda,” said Owalo.  

The government, through the National KE-CIRT/CC, leads national cybersecurity awareness creation, and capacity-building initiatives and issues periodic advisories on emerging cyber concerns through press statements and cybersecurity best practice guides. 

Owalo said that the CA engages with schools to provide cyber awareness to students, teachers and parents on emerging cybersecurity concerns such as cyberbullying, child online exploitation and online fraud amongst others. 

The Authority this year has held a series of cyber-awareness and cyber capacity-building initiatives in the run-up to OCSAM 2023, geared towards enhancing collective cyber hygiene with these activities including a cybersecurity bootcamp and cybersecurity capacity-building initiatives. 

“Through the digital forensics lab, the government, through the National KE-CIRT in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, investigates various cybercrimes, including child online sexual exploitation and abuse, the National KE-CIRT hosts a state-of-the-art digital forensics lab that is used to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes,” said Owalo.