The past week, Malawians were hit with news that police have arrested an individual for hacking into State House computers, disrupting the security system and stealing undisclosed sums of money using the president’s name.
We were told, by no lesser personage than the whole Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rodney Jose, that the hacker, whose identity could not be immediately revealed, appear to be a computer expert who is likely part of a sophisticated crime syndicate, and that the police are treating the matter as a case of high national security.
A day later, acting Presidential Spokesperson, Timpuza Mwansambo made a statement which practically dialed down the so called sophisticated crime syndicate. He said the hacker did not actually hack State House computers after all. The thieves, he said, only used the Mutharika name, with an ‘h’ at the end to steal from some unfortunate souls.
He said the ‘hacker’ merely created email accounts in the name of the President, which he used to fleece some kwachas from some unsuspecting ‘donors’.
According to Timpunza, the criminal directed his victims to deposit money in an account, which was in someone else’s name.
In the absence of information about the identity of the hacker, and a true profile of the crime, we may never be sure about who is responsible for the downgrading of the latest State House crime from a serious National Security matter to a mere case of impersonation.
Is it possible that Mwansambo or Rodney Jose don’t know what computer hacking is all about? Creating an email account in a name that is not yours can hardly be referred to as computer hacking. Countless school kids are doing it around the world on a daily basis. Is creating an email account in the name of Mutharika breach of national security warranting the involvement of the whole Deputy Inspector of Police?
In as much as this is an embarrassment to State House, it is more of stupidity for the victims of this crime. How could they have been gullible enough to deposit money in an account with a strange name thinking they are donating to the President or State House?
If it is indeed true that the hacker only used the President’s name through creating fake e-mail accounts to steal money from other people other than State House, then it is a matter of the hacker and his victims.
How State House is prominently coming in the picture here is neither here nor there. Or, is State House embarrassed on behalf of its ‘donors’?
In fact, if it is about extorting money in the name of the President, then there are far bigger and darling criminals walking the corridors of State House. Is it not long ago when reports were awash in the media that some presidential aides, including Mutharika’s Personal Assistant, Ben Phiri, havebeen going around extorting money from people in the name of President Mutharika?
It was said that Phiri has been getting money from Malawians of Asian origin and other investors in return for appointments with the President. The President’s Personal Assistant nearly came to blows with fellow aid, Bright Malopa, apparently because Malopa wrote a memo to the President complaining about Ben Phiri’s conduct. They currently don’t see eye to eye as Ben Phiri thinks Malopa is out to get his position.
So, this whole talk about some hacker or impersonator is empty and does not qualify to occupy large spaces in public discourse. The real hackers and impersonators live and work right at State House. Most of them eat with the State President on the same table.
Nine months after the DPP and President Mutharika won the national elections, these real ‘hackers’ and impersonators’ have become filthy rich through extortion of millions of Kwacha from unsuspecting members of the Asian business community.
Malawians have better things to think about like the much-touted Public Sector Reforms than wasting time listening to some distorted narrative of ‘hackers’ and ‘impersonators’ from some State House spokesperson and a suspicious Deputy Police Chief.
- Hastings Kandoje is a political, social and economic commentator. He writes for Nyasa Times in his own capacity