A senior Kenyan security official refuted claims of a Reuters report which said Chinese hackers carried out cyber-attacks against the Kenyan government since 2019, noting the allegations in the article lack authoritative evidence of their existence.
In a statement released on Thursday, Dr. Raymond Omollo, the Principal Secretary for Internal Security and National Administration, said no conclusive verification has been provided by relevant officials from either the Kenyan and Chinese governments in the article, which was initially published on May 23, 2023, and updated the next day.
“The article should be viewed as sponsored propaganda. The wide circulation and the alacrity for its attribution by other foreign media with well-known inclinations further hint at a choreographed and concerted attack against Kenya’s sovereignty,” said Omollo.
In the article, Reuters reported that the hacks, targeting eight of Kenya’s ministries and government departments, were suspected of being conducted by a hacking group sponsored by China, citing Kenyan intelligence analysts and a cyber security firm in the United States.
Omollo argued in the statement that it was unreasonable for the key ministries to be hacked by third-party hackers from China as most of the critical networking infrastructure deployed by Kenya is sourced from the country.
“It is reasonable, therefore, to contemplate that if the country of origin desired to infiltrate the same systems it has helped install, it would unlikely engage third-party hackers,” Omollo said.
Omollo added that Kenya’s cyber security infrastructure is formative, and this portends inherent high-risk exposure to cyber threats. He said the necessary precautions that are under constant review to match the dynamic nature of the threats landscape have been deployed.
Behind groundless accusations
The Chinese Embassy in Nairobi also dismissed the claims made by the report, terming them as “groundless, far-fetched and sheer nonsense.”
“Hacking is a common threat to all countries and China is also a victim of cyber-attacks. China consistently and firmly opposes and combats cyber-attacks and cyber theft in all forms,” a spokesperson said in a statement from the embassy, adding that it is a highly sensitive political issue to pin the label of a cyber-attack to a certain government without solid evidence.
In addition to Reuters’ article, U.S. tech firm Microsoft Corp also published a report on Wednesday, saying a hacking group known as Volt Typhoon has gained access to infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere in the U.S.
The company said the group is sponsored by China and had been active since mid-2021, with the likely aim of upending communications during a future crisis.
China has rejected the baseless claims from the “extremely unprofessional” report, describing it as a “a patchwork with a broken chain of evidence.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters that similar alerts have also been issued by intelligence agencies of the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, members of intelligence alliance the Five Eyes.
The Five Eyes is the world’s largest intelligence organization, and the National Security Agency (NSA) of the U.S. is the world’s largest hacking organization.
Mao said the joint warning issued by the U.S. and its allies is a “collective disinformation campaign” with geopolitical purposes, adding that the U.S. is in fact “the empire of hackers.”
Investigation reports released by Chinese institutions last September accused the U.S. of using 41 specialized cyber weapons to launch more than 1,000 attacks on Northwestern Polytechnical University in China’s Shaanxi Province.
The investigation, conducted by China’s National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center and Chinese internet security company 360, uncovered the technical characteristics, tools and methods of the attacks, which were traced back to Computer Network Operations (CNO), a cyber warfare intelligence-gathering unit of the NSA. The U.S. has not yet offered a response on the matter.