Kenya’s governmental website, the eCitizen portal, had to deal with a cyberattack at the end of July. This caused a large number of government services to stop functioning, and for a short period of time, foreign travellers could not obtain an e-visa. Fortunately, visa applications for Kenya are again being processed without further ado via e-Visa.ie.
Cyberattack on eCitizen portal
On 27 July 2023, Kenya’s eCitizen portal suddenly stopped functioning. This website is the main access point for Kenyan citizens as well as foreigners to government affairs, such as passport, driving licence, and e-visa applications. It took approximately one week before the system was up and running again.
The cyberattack also caused problems for online banking services. With around 76% of the Kenyan population actively making use of mobile payments, the impact of this attack was highly noticeable. Malfunctions were reported regarding online payments, as well as with in-store smartphone payments. Cyberattacks have been happening increasingly in multiple African countries that are switching over to digital systems in a short period of time. This all the more shows the importance of letting this increase in digitalization go hand in hand with waterproof security.
Among the more than 5000 government services accessed via the eCitizen portal, is also the online application system of the Kenya e-visa. Because of the cyberattack, new applications could not be submitted for a few days, nor could running applications be processed.
Consequences and solutions for the Kenya e-visa
Foreign travellers can only apply for the Kenya visa online. That is because in 2021, Kenya officially abolished their visa on arrival. Since then, travellers can no longer obtain a visa upon arriving in the country, but are required to apply for an e-visa before departure.
However, the cyberattack on the Kenyan government website temporarily disrupted their ability to process e-visa applications. To solve this problem on a short term, they reached back out to the visa on arrival. Travellers that would normally be eligible for the e-visa for Kenya, were now allowed into the country based on a visa on arrival. Thanks to this fast solution, tourists and business travellers did not have to cancel or postpone their trip to Kenya because of the cyberattack.
Travellers who had submitted their visa application on e-Visa.ie and could not receive their visa in time due to the problems with the Kenyan website, have received a refund. That is one of the advantages of submitting an application on e-Visa.ie compared to an application made directly through the government, where failed or rejected applications are never refunded.
No data was leaked according to Kenyan authorities
A cyberattack on a government organisation automatically brings along concerns about possible personal data leaks. However, the attack turned out to be nothing more than a DDOS attack (Distributed Denial of Service). This is a commonly used hacking technique that overflows online systems, causing them to go offline. The Kenyan government has confirmed that no personal data was accessed or leaked to the public.
The attack was claimed by Anonymous Sudan, arguing that the Kenyan government had allegedly made public statements questioning the sovereignty of the Sudanese government. Although the hacker group has carried out several attacks since its emergence in January, they have so far caused no damage, but rather inconvenience.
E-visa applications possible again since 1 August
On the morning of 1 August, Kenya's electronic visa system became operational again. Applications held since 27 July due to the cyber-attack were not subject to excessive delays. In total, it took less than a week to process all e-visa applications for Kenya submitted through e-Visa.ie.
The short period during which it was not possible to apply for the e-visa once again underlined the convenience of the online visa application. Although the visa on arrival was a good temporary solution, all travellers had to apply for visas on the spot at the same time, resulting in long queues at the airport. Fortunately, this was a temporary solution and travellers who meet all the requirements can now return to using the "easy-to-apply for" online Kenya e-visa.