Hackers Strike Malawi, Prompting Suspension of Passport Issuance

Cyber Attack

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has taken decisive action in response to a cyber-attack on the country's immigration service, ordering the suspension of passport issuance. The attack, which targeted the immigration department's computer systems, has been deemed a serious national security breach by Chakwera.

The President, addressing Members of Parliament, revealed that hackers had demanded a ransom, but he asserted that the government would not negotiate or appease criminals with public funds. The cyber-attack comes at a time when there is a high demand for passports in Malawi, with reports indicating that many young people are seeking opportunities abroad.

In response to the situation, Chakwera has given the immigration department a three-week ultimatum to implement a temporary solution and resume passport issuance fully. This suspension isn't the first; last year, the government halted passport issuance due to a shortage of passport booklets. Additionally, in 2021, a passport contract with a Kenyan IT company was terminated over irregularities in the awarding process.

Techno Brain Global, the company involved, denied any wrongdoing, stating that it had participated in an international bidding process to secure the e-Passport contract. Despite these challenges, Malawi's passport remains relatively powerful in terms of visa-free entries, ranked seventh among African countries alongside Kenya, with a global ranking of 67 according to the Henley Passport Index.

The delays in passport issuance have prompted frustration among Malawians, who seek clarity and resolution from their government. As the nation navigates these technical and contractual issues, the government remains committed to addressing the security concerns and restoring passport services in a timely manner.