Kenya Revenue Authority, several blue-chip banks, a parastatal and a supermarket chain are some of the institutions penetrated by an international cybercrime syndicate that took off with hundreds of millions of shillings – before they were all seized on Monday and Tuesday.
Working with insiders and relatives of “prominent politicians”, the crooks had formed an international band that installed malware into the systems that allowed them to take control of the institutions’ computers and steal what police sources said would run into hundreds of millions. (A malware is a software that disables the systems to enable hacking and transfer of money without detection).
On Monday night, police detectives from the Special Crime Prevention Unit, SCPU, and the Flying Squad smashed the syndicate and arrested a former police officer, a Kenya Revenue Authority employee and two American citizens who are now among 16 suspects in police custody for transnational crimes — that include cybercrime and drug trafficking.
On Wednesday evening, KRA confirmed that its staff members had been part of the syndicate and were under arrest.
Commissioner General John Njiraini said KRA “played a key role in unearthing the crime whose outcome has been the arrest of several suspects among them KRA staff in the ICT department”
The cybercrime syndicate was operating in the Nairobi CBD, Muthaiga, Thika, and Roysambu, and had been robbing banks using Salami attacks and electronic transfers as well as trafficking drugs. They have also been colluding with motor vehicle importers to evade tax and were illegally registering them. During the crackdown, police recovered several vehicle number plates from one of the houses.(In a salami attack, a cyber crook steals small undetectable amounts and deposits in one account before launching a major attack.)
Security reports also indicate that the group were “conspiring to manipulate the IEBC system during the elections” and had been working with relatives of senior politicians which gives the syndicate some political angle too.