Kenyan authorities arrest student hackers converting stolen money to bitcoin

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Published: 2022-06-17
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According to the directorate of criminal investigations in Kenya, a group of Kenyan students have been stealing the email credit cards of people from other countries by using a technique called email phishing ( DCI). Students create phony email accounts in order to steal the passwords and credit card information of unsuspecting victims. They then use the funds stolen from the victims' credit cards to buy bitcoin, which they then convert into Kenyan shillings.

According to the directorate, they were able to apprehend the criminal gang that was operating out of Milimani, which is a wealthy estate located in Nakuru City, which is the fourth largest city in the country.

Two students at Kenyatta University are members of the gang. Francis Maina Wambui, also known as Nick, is 26 years old, and Zellic Alusa, 25, was arrested by the DCI during a raid on an apartment when he was with two young women, according to the DCI. Both men go by the nickname Nick.

The DCI's arrest resulted in the recovery of a number of devices, some of which include: five laptops, four mobile phones, two WiFi gadgets, three hard drives, and a variety of SIM cards.

The dishonest individuals used the money they stole through hacking to fund a lavish lifestyle and buy properties. One of the documents that was found inside the flat was a land sale agreement that had been signed on May 25 for a property located in Juja and priced at KSh850,000 ($8,000). The property was located very close to the university.

The increased incidence of cybercrime in Kenya

Since the beginning of 2010, Kenya has witnessed an increase in activities related to cybercrime, which has paved the way for the proliferation of cybercrime gangs. The most infamous is the Forkbombo, a group of Kenyan hackers that, according to various sources, stole Sh400 million ($4 million) from individuals, organizations, financial institutions, and government agencies between the years 2013 and 2017. In 2017, many members of the gang, including a person who had previously worked as an expert in the field of cybercrime security, were accused with stealing Sh3.9 billion ($39 million) from the Kenya Revenue Authority. In 2019, a member of the gang was detained in Kigali, Rwanda, along with seven other Kenyans for attempting to hack into Equity Bank, which is the largest bank in East Africa in terms of assets and deposits. The bank is located in Rwanda.

Cybercrime involving financial institutions has cost Kenyans millions of dollars over the past few years. For example, Kenyans have suffered a loss of $210 million due to cybercrime related to banks. In 2018, this number reached $295 million, representing a rise over 2017.

A Ponzi fraud called BitStream Circle emerged in December 2021 and promised investors a daily profit return of 5–10 percent of their investment. Earlier this month, Kenyans lost a total of Sh1.18 billion ($10 million) to the scheme, which was discovered in March.

Just a few days before the raid, another agency called the Kenya National Police Service launched a forensics lab to double down on combating cybercrime and cryptocurrency fraud, both of which have been acknowledged to be on the rise by the country's president, Uhuru Kenyatta. This is an additional attempt by the authorities in Kenya to crack down on cybercriminals who do not appear to be deterred by the country's Computer Misuse and Cyber Crimes Act, which was passed in 2018 and stipulates a two-year prison sentence and a fine of $2,000 for anyone found guilty of manipulating a payments system in order to steal money.