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Rwanda jails 8 Kenyans, Ugandan in Equity Bank hacking case

An Equity Bank stall in Rwanda. PHOTO/FILE

By The East African | Eight Kenyans and a Ugandan arrested in Rwanda for hacking Equity Bank have been handed eight-year jail terms and fined Rwf56 million (about $55,600 million).

The nine are part of a 12-man gang arrested in 2019 by the Rwandan Investigation Bureau (RIB) that included three Rwandan nationals.

Regional security teams had trailed the gang linked to bank hacking attempts in Kenya and Uganda and had notified Rwandan officials when they set up a shop there.

The members of an organised group were arrested while hacking into Equity Bank accounts and funneling the cash to Rwandans to draw out funds through Eazzy banking and ATMs.

Taarifa Rwanda daily reported the court pronounced the verdict on Friday, July 2, fining the suspects Rwf50 million ($49,600) in damages and about Rwf3 million ($3,000) for other charges.

“The court tendered the verdict on the five charges; unauthorised access to s computer or a computer system data; access to data with intent to commit an offence; unauthorised modification of computer or computer system data; theft; and formation of or joining a criminal association,” Taarifa Rwanda reported.

The Kenyans are Dedan Muchoki Muriuki, Samuel Wachira Nyuguto, Kinyua Erickson Macharia, Godfrey Gachiri Githinji, Eric Dickson Njagi Mutegi, Reuben Kirogothi Mwangi, Damaris Njeri Kamau, and Steve Maina Wambugu. The Ugandan national is John Kibengo.

The hackers operating with insiders to identify targets with huge deposits tried to intercept the lender’s 14 branch network and wrote computer scripts to move money to several local accounts of accomplices.

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They attempted hacking using the Eazzy banking platform, which the bank and security agents intercepted since they had been alerted on their operations, including the recruitment of Rwandans they would use to take cash out of the accounts.

Cybercrime

Rwanda has seen a growth in cybercrime which tripled from just 47 reported cases in 2017 to 113 cases in 2018, 64 of them committed in Kigali.

The Rwandan convictions come in the wake of increased cybercrime activities in the region with security experts calling for collaboration to nab networks of cross-border cartels wreaking havoc in financial institutions.

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Kenya’s highly digitised economy linked with mobile money through telcos and banks has made the country a target for cybercrime and online fraud.

*Written by Otiato Guguyu

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