Israeli govt to help Kenya set up cyber 'Iron Dome' to curb rise in attacks

A view of Israeli's Iron Dome. [Courtesy]

The Israeli government says it is ready to help Kenya’s State agencies and private companies step up their cyber security efforts in the wake of a rise in attempted hacking attacks.

Israel is considered a world-leader in cyber defense, thanks to burgeoning computing and robotics industries that draw on talent developed in the technologically-advanced conscript military.

Local demand for offensive cyber systems is expected to rise, cybersecurity experts say, amid the rise of cyber breach incidents.

Kenya recently suffered a massive cyber-attack that caused outage to key online government services.

Now, Israel, a leading provider of hacking and surveillance tools known as cyber weapons, or spyware, says it is keen on selling its technology to Kenyan entities.

“Israeli firms are ready to offer their expertise to both public and private companies in helping them beef up their cyber defensive capabilities,” said Barak Granot, the Minister-Counselor and Head of the Economic and Trade Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Nairobi.

Mr Granot told Financial Standard in an nterview that Israeli firms had reported receiving huge enquiries from Kenyan firms as they rush to build up their defences. 

Israeli government websites and companies face thousands of attacks daily but most are thwarted.

Israel’s Shin Bet security service revealed recently it has incorporated artificial intelligence into its tradecraft and used the technology to foil substantial threats, highlighting generative AI’s potential for law-enforcement and how Israel is breaking news ground to fight hackers.

Among measures taken by the Shin Bet - the Israeli counterpart of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations or Britain’s MI5 - has been the creation of its own generative AI platform, akin to ChatGPT or Bard, director Ronen Bar said recently.

Israel’s cyber sector is one of the country’s fastest growing, raising $8.8 billion (Sh1.2 trillion) in 2021 to triple the amount of 2020. 

Another 40 Israeli cyber firms were bought by foreign companies for a total of $3.5 billion (Sh500 billion) while Israeli cyber exports reached $11 billion (Sh1.5 trillion) in 2021.

Sensitive data

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo last month admitted that the government’s online services were affected by a cyber-attack.

This is after Kenya’s digital platform e-Citizen, responsible for government services and housing sensitive personal data, suffered a glitch.

The e-Citizen portal is a vital platform for registering and managing personal data including passports, identity cards, driver’s licenses, permits and business registration.

The attack was claimed by hackers who identified themselves as Anonymous Sudan.

CS Owalo also confirmed the cyber-attack as being carried out by the group, asserting that no data was compromised or lost during the incident, which impacted several services.

The CS, however, said that no data was lost during the attack and that the government was working around the clock to resolve the problem and secure the platform.

Kenyans had during the period been complaining on social media platforms for nearly a week about the unavailability and outage of government services through the portal.

A number of online services were also unavailable for the better part of the period, following the cyber-attack that affected both public and private entities.

Consumers were also denied access to e-commerce services and mobile money platforms as the incidents affected critical mobile payments infrastructure.

Kenyan businesses lose billions of shillings and troves of sensitive information to hackers every year.

Consequently, Kenyan regulators have in recent months urged local firms to brace for risks that technology poses to their operations, heightening fears about the rising cases of cybercrime in key institutions.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), through the National Computer Incident Response Team Co-ordination Centre, has for instance cautioned that cyber criminals are now using third-party software to deliver threats to unsuspecting users in an attempt to compromise and steal their personal data.

CA’s warning follows similar caution by Central Bank of Kenya, which earlier warned that local lenders are exposed to cyber-attacks and ICT-enabled fraud.

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