Police target Internet cafes in war on cybercrime

CID director Ndegwa Muhoro (left) and Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere Tuesday. They urged the parliamentary committee on education to help pass a law requiring cyber cafes to register their customers. Phoebe Okall
Cyber café operators will soon be required to keep a register of all their customers if a proposal by the Police Department aimed at arresting crimes perpetrated through mobile phones and the Internet is adopted.
CID director Ndegwa Muhoro said Parliament should enact a law that would compel cyber cafés to adopt the know-your-customer rules already in place in the banking and mobile phone sectors.
“We are proposing to this committee to help us have a legal framework that will compel all cyber shops log in their users with their identity cards and time spent on the computers registered,” he told members of the parliamentary committee on education, which is investigating the cancellation of examination results for nearly 1,700 Form Four candidates from North Eastern Province.
Mr Muhoro said cyber cafes remained a missing link in recent efforts aimed at containing crime by tracking Internet use to a particular computer.
“It is difficult to pin down criminals who use cyber cafe computers at any given time unless they are logged in,” he said, adding that most of the cheating during last year’s examinations involved SMS on mobile phones and e-mails.
Although a conviction had been secured on a criminal who used SMSs to leak the exams, he said failure to operationalise a law requiring all mobile phone SIM card holders to register with the Communications Commission of Kenya was posing a threat to national security.
President Kibaki last year ordered that all unregistered mobile phone SIM cards be switched off to rein in crime, but there was no legal basis to back up the directive.
“To safeguard the lives of many Kenyans using mobile phones, I once more direct the Ministry of Information and Communications to ensure that there is no phone number in use that is not registered,” Mr Kibaki had said.
The Communications Commission of Kenya Amendment Act, 2011, eventually addressed this loophole, but is yet to be operationalised.
Out of an estimated 28 million mobile phone users, three million are yet to register with their service providers: Safaricom, Airtel, yu and Telkom Orange.
Mr Muhoro Tuesday called for the quick operationalisation of the law to protect Kenyans from crimes associated with new technology.
“We have hit a brick wall many times where users of mobile phones are not registered or computers they used to commit crimes are in cyber cafes,” he said, adding that the CID cannot block the mobile phones without attracting litigation.
The department has also recommended the setting up of secure examination storage centres with only supervisors having the keys to the vaults, which would be guarded by policemen, to curb examination fraud.
“This will certainly reduce cases of collusion between any unfaithful police officer and examinations supervisors or invigilator,” Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said.
According to him, no irregularities were detected when the method was piloted last year using containers.
He said 41 containers were used as storage centres in Coast, Eastern, Nairobi, Nyanza and Western provinces. The pilot by KNEC, however, did not cover North Eastern, Rift Valley and Central provinces.
The police also recommend that results should be released after the conclusion of investigations on irregularities, vetting of invigilators and supervisors and deterrent actions on offenders.
Mr Muhoro said all persons involved in examinations right from the setting and printing must be vetted by the CID and other security agencies.

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