Some 12 people—eight Kenyans three Rwandan nationals and one Ugandan—have been arrested in Kigali for attempting to hack into Equity Bank Rwanda’s clients’ accounts.
They were arrested on October 26 as they planned to commit the crime, according to the Rwanda Investigative Bureau.
RIB spokesperson Marie Michelle Umuhoza said the suspects’ names are being withheld as investigations continue. They are expected to appear in court next week.
“All the suspects were arrested on Friday, October 26, and their dossiers have been forwarded to the prosecution authority. It was an organised group of criminals and they were arrested while in the process of hacking into Equity Bank accounts. We cannot provide more details as investigations continue,” she told The EastAfrican.
“We want to commend all those who shared information that led to the arrest of the suspects and urge the public to remain vigilant and always share information that can be used to prevent crime,” she added.
She said the public was not immediately informed of the arrests because “investigations were still being conducted while they were still under detention.”
However, the RIB says immediately after their arrest, they informed the Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Officials at the ministry were not available for comment on whether the suspects’ governments had been informed too, but said that the procedure is always to contact suspects’ embassies first.
“I am out of the country and cannot comment on the matter at the moment but procedure determines that we contact the concerned countries in such cases,” said Olivier Nduhungirehe, State Minister in charge of the East African Community.
The chief executive of Equity Bank Rwanda, Hannington Namara, said that the bank had co-operated with the investigators throughout the process and that the hackers were apprehended before breaching the bank’s systems.
“We have a robust security system that the hackers failed to bypass. Our clients were not affected and we assure the public that the system is strong enough against such attacks,” he said.
The suspects are said to have successfully conducted similar hacks in both Kenya and Uganda before travelling to Rwanda to attempt the same, but unknown to them, they had already under surveillance and caught in the act, the RIB said.
Cyber crimes have been on the rise in the region. In Rwanda, cyber crime has tripled from just 47 reported cases in 2017 to 113 cases last year, 64 of them committed in Kigali.