Kenyans using Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet in public places will be required to register their mobile devices with the Kenya Network Information Centre (Kenic), under new rules aimed at fighting cybercrime.
The customers will be required to provide their telephone numbers and identity card details, which can be used to track them down should they use their gadgets to commit cybercrimes such as fraud or hacking websites.
The gadgets that must be registered include laptops, mobile phones, iPads, e-readers and any other devices that can be used at a public Wi-Fi hot spots such as hotels and restaurants.
This implies that in addition to registering the SIM cards in the gadgets with either Safaricom, Airtel or Telkom Kenya, people who use Wi-Fi will be required to register their devices at the point where they access the Internet, be it in hotels, restaurants, offices and public transport vehicles.
The director-general of the Communications Authority of Kenya, Mr Francis Wangusi, gave the new directive on Tuesday after taking over as the new chairman of the Association of Regulators of Information and Communications for Eastern and Southern Africa (Aricea), the organisation mandated to fight cybercrime with the Comesa region.
“We will license Kenic to register device owners using their national identity cards and telephone numbers, the identity of a device will be known when it connects to Wi-Fi,” Mr Wangusi said at the annual general meeting held in Nairobi.
Failure by any establishment to adhere to the rules will compel Kenic to withdraw the Wi-Fi services used by the defaulting institutions.
“In case a crime is committed, we will then be able to trace people using national identity cards that were registered and their phone numbers keyed in during registration,” said Mr Wangusi.
The Communications Authority is also setting up a forensic laboratory to detect and neutralise impending cyberattacks.
Mr Wangusi said the authority will conduct a detailed study on the extent of web hackings in Kenya. According to him, cyberattacks were on the rise, with the banking sector being the biggest victim followed by government institutions.
The new rules will also require all Kenyan companies to host their websites in the country rather than outside. This would help avoid extra costs associated with sending data out to a different location and back again to the website owner.
Dr Abu Dafalla, the Comesa Director for Infrastructure, said that Kenya now leads in pushing the cybercrime agenda within the region.
“Criminals are carrying out illegal activities on the web and we must protect the region even us we focus on trade. A secure cyberspace will retain revenue loss. Credit card fraud alone is estimated at $37 billion annually in the region,” he said.
Mrs Devi Chand, the outgoing Aricea chairman, said the proposed regulations will ensure reliable, affordable and effective Internet services within the 19 Comesa countries.
Last year, Kenya faced several cyber-threats when the Kenya Defence Forces social media account was hacked.
The hacker, self-identified by the Twitter handle @Anon_0x03, also breached the National Environment Trust Fund’s website.
By registering devices used by every Kenyan, there is a possibility that such anonymous attackers can be located from wherever they operate within the country.
Mr Hillary Siele, the manager at Nanchang Hotel in Westlands, Nairobi, welcomed the move, saying it would help curb fraud targeting hotels, leading to loss of money and important documents.