Banks now pitch for tech gurus

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020 00:00 |

A surge in cyber crime has seen Kenyan banks open boardrooms to tech veterans to keep hackers at bay as digitisation takes centre stage.

Latest reports by Liquid Telecoms and Internet Solutions Kenya, estimate that Kenya loses around $300 million (Sh30 billion) annually to cybercrime with Saccos, banks, and the government being the main victims.

Lenders could have smelled the coffee and major banks are now roping in tech savvy executives to the board.

More so on the back of coronavirus pandemic when attacks increased by 47 per cent to 37 million attempts, in the three months to June, according to latest data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA).

Leading lenders  Equity Bank Kenya last week appointed University of Nairobi professor of Information Systems Timothy Waema as a non-executive director while NCBA Bank placed an advert in the local dailies seeking to hire an IT director last month.

Disaster recovery

“Key responsibilities include use of domain knowledge and experience to define sufficient resilience for network, hardware, applications together with the accompanying disaster recovery plans,” NCBA said.

According to Catherine Adeya, the head of research at the World Wide Web Foundation, Kenyan organisations including some banks are largely unprepared to deal with cyber-attacks.

“All that some banks have is minimum regulatory requirements but they need to invest in proper systems and strategies,” said the former Stanchart director.

She said Kenyan lenders have lost millions of shillings to hackers but most of the incidences go unreported for fear of customer flight.

“Bank would rather not announce that they have been hacked, because within no time, customers would fill the branches asking for their money,” said Stanchart chief information security officer Jane Mwai.

Mwai said banks should work together to share data to defeat threats. She was speaking during the Tai SOC Cybersecurity Conference held in Strathmore University last week.

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated digitisation forcing banks to take advantage of ICT to cut costs and reach more clients.

“Covid-19 has really helped us, everybody has taken an economic hit from Covid-19 and everyone is trying to lower the cost of doing business,” said Catherine Getao ICT Board Chief executive officer.

For instance the number of ATMs have dropped significantly as more people switch to digital money but the risk of attacks have soared.


Many employees in the banking sector are working from home due to the pandemic hence pushing up the demand for cloud computing. 

This calls for more investment in cybersecurity due to the surge in people working remotely since it makes it easier for hackers to attack.

The National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team and Coordination Centre is said to have detected over 48.5 Million cyber-attacks between January 2020 and June 2020.

Commercial and investment banks started hunting professionals from the tech world for years now in response to disruption from fintech competitors.

The lenders are looking for techies that will help to disrupt the institutions from within and deliver the banks of tomorrow.

“At the moment the regulator even requires that banks hire chief information security officers,” said Leonard Mwithiga, National Bank executive director.

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