CA rule to require registration for use of public Wi-Fi

The Communications Authority of Kenya director-general Francis Wangusi. PHOTO | FILE

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) is drafting regulations that will soon require anyone accessing wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) through public hot spots to register their devices with the service provider, as part of government efforts to crack down on cybercrime.

Mobile devices will be assigned unique public Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and organisations offering public Wi-Fi will be required to give each gadget – including mobile phones and tablets – unique IP addresses to ease identification of users.

CA director-general Francis Wangusi on Tuesday said the regulation will help track and monitor user activity on mobile devices and supplement the registration of mobile phone SIM cards.

“Anybody accessing a public Wi-Fi will be required to register his or her device with the provider. Right now it is very difficult to trace anyone using public Wi-Fi. This has given criminals an avenue to conduct their activities,” said Mr Wangusi in an interview. 

Internet services providers will also be expected to ensure that any user who accesses their network has registered using their identification documents or risk litigation for cybercrimes committed by unregistered users. 

Currently those accessing the Internet using modems or private networks have traceable SIM cards for the modems or contractual agreement with providers.

The CA’s announcement comes at a time when most entertainment joints are using free Wi-Fi connectivity to attract customers to their outlets.

CA said it is also working on a memorandum of understanding with the registrar of companies that will also see anyone registering a company or business in Kenya compelled to acquire a dot ke (.ke) domain address.

The CA board cited fighting cybercrime as one of the priority tasks for Mr Wangusi who was last week handed a fresh four-year term as the regulatory agency’s boss.

The government has moved a lot of its services online while financial institutions are also adopting technology in their operations to improve efficiency.

The registration of companies or businesses is currently not inter-linked to the assigning of Internet domains. The attorney-general’s office handles business registration while the Kenya Network Information Centre (Kenic) – a non-profit organisation – administers the Internet addresses system.

Mr Wangusi, however, said that a new licensing regime for Kenic will require it to collaborate with the registrar of companies and businesses to ensure that those seeking new registrations also acquire the .ke domain.

Kenic had sold 32,508 .ke names as at June 2014. South Africa’s .za leads African countries with more than a million domains. The low uptake of the .ke domain saw Kenic slash the retail prices by 66.7 per cent to Sh1,000 in March in a bid to encourage uptake by more Kenyan firms.

Kenic had previously been charging Sh3,000 for the .ke domain while prices for the .com, .net and .info averaged between Sh500 and Sh2,000.

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