Uganda: Focus on the hacking of Airtel and MTN's mobile money service in October 2020

July 30, 2021 | by: David Kodjani

The month of October 2020 was particularly trying for Ugandans who, in addition to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, had to do without mobile money services. These, which were a semblance of a solution to the travel restriction, were suspended on October 3 due to hacking into the systems of Pegasus Technologies Limited, which processes Mobile Money transactions.

According to sources quoted by CEO East Africa Magazine, the incident stems from a hacking that not only affected the two telecom companies, but several financial institutions in the country like Stanbic Bank.

According to CEO East Africa Magazine, MTN, Airtel and Stanbic Bank appear to be the most affected by the hacking of Pegasus Technologies Limited systems - the financial damage of which is estimated in billions of Ugandan shillings (UGX) - because the three companies are the ones who handle the most mobile money transactions.

"The hack went undetected from Thursday evening until Saturday. By that time, the hackers had sent each other close to UGX 1.3 billion, but managed to withdraw 900 million UGX from Airtel Money. We estimate that MTN has also lost almost double that amount, as it is the leader in mobile money. When the fraud was detected, all transactions going through Pegasus Technologies were suspended, "explained one of the sources at CEO East Africa Magazine.

Although Ronald Azairwe, the managing director of Pegasus Technologies Limited, refused to confirm or deny the true character of the technological incident, Twiine Charles, the spokesperson for the Directorate of Criminal Investigations of the Ugandan Police, confirmed it as a computer hack. He said "an incident of electronic fraud had been reported to the police" who launched an investigation.

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In a joint statement released on October 5, 2020, MTN, Airtel and Stanbic Bank claimed that "this system incident had no impact on bank and mobile account balances" , stressing in passing that their "technical teams are analyzing the incident and will restore services as soon as possible".

On the details and the modus operandi, we learn from the group of companies that "from Thursday evening, the hacking took place undetected until Saturday. By that time, the hackers had sent each other nearly 1.3 billion UGX, but had managed to remove 900 million UGX. Airtel Money. We estimate that MTN has also lost almost twice the same amount of money as they are leaders in mobile money. When fraud was detected all transactions going through Pegasus Technologies were suspended. In the process, an investigation was opened to find the perpetrators of this fraud.

Source: Ecofin Agency

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