OPINION: Kenya Embraces Visa on Arrival in Response to Cybersecurity Incident

Friday, July 28, 2023

In the wake of a recent cybersecurity breach that affected the government’s online application platform, Kenya has decided to grant visas on arrival to all travelers. The e-citizen portal, a platform crucial for accessing over 5,000 government services, including e-visas, experienced a hacking incident. Fortunately, authorities have assured the public that no data was compromised or lost during the attack.

To ensure that travelers can still enter the country seamlessly while the online platform is being rectified, the Kenyan government sent a note verbale to foreign missions and international organizations announcing the temporary measure. The Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs stated that visas will be issued on arrival at all entry points in Kenya. The government also requested airlines to allow travelers destined for Kenya to board without prior e-visa approvals.

The e-visa application process, which typically requires relevant documentation for validation, is now suspended due to the platform’s downtime. By granting visas on arrival to all travelers, Kenya hopes to prevent disruptions in travel plans and support tourism during this period.

However, this new approach may pose challenges at border clearance desks, as each traveler will now need to be assessed individually upon arrival. Airport authorities are bracing for potential congestion and are taking measures to streamline the process efficiently.

The government has been transparent about the cause of the e-citizen platform’s downtime, attributing it to hackers attempting to overload the system with data requests. Anonymous Sudan, a group claiming responsibility for the cyber-attack, stated that it was a protest against Kenya’s alleged interference in Sudan’s internal affairs. Apart from the e-citizen portal, the hackers also targeted mobile money transfer platforms, e-banking systems, and the services of utility firm Kenya Power.

In response to the incident, the ICT Cabinet Secretary, Eliud Owalo, admitted to the cyber-attack but reassured the public that no data breach occurred. The government is actively working to enhance the platform’s security and establish a robust risk mitigation framework to prevent similar incidents in the future.

While the cybersecurity breach is concerning, Kenya is taking decisive actions to address the situation promptly and ensure the safety and convenience of travelers during this period of transition. The implementation of visas on arrival is a temporary solution to maintain the flow of international visitors to the country until the e-citizen platform is fully restored with improved security measures.

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