Investigations Reveal How Hackers in Uganda Stole Billions from MTN, Stanbic Bank, Airtel and others

Investigators have started getting answers after months of probing the circumstances leading to an electronic fraud incident in Uganda in which unidentified hackers broke into the systems of Pegasus Technologies, a company that integrates mobile money transactions between telecommunication companies, banks, and other local, regional, and international money transfer services. Even though there is still yet to be a comprehensive audit done, it is believed that the hackers made off with with sums running into billions of Shillings.

Leading telcos in the country, Airtel and MTN, as well as Stanbic Bank which is currently the country’s largest bank and it also doubles as backer for most of the mobile money transactions, were the most affected.

In a joint statement released on Monday 5th October 2020, Anne Juuko, Wim Vanhelleputte, and VG Somasekhar, the CEOs of Stanbic Bank, MTN, and Airtel respectively, admitted there was an “incident”, but did not give enough details for journalists and the public to ponder on.

“Stanbic Bank Uganda, MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda inform the public and their customers that on Saturday 3 October 2020, a third-party service provider experienced a system incident which impacted Bank to Mobile Money transactions.  All Bank to Mobile Money/Wallet services have since been temporarily suspended,” the trio said.

“This system incident has had no impact on any balances on both Bank and Mobile Money accounts. Our technical teams are analyzing the incident and will restore services as soon as possible. We apologize to all customers for any inconvenience that this has caused and reiterate our commitment to delivering seamless banking and mobile money services,” they added.

The spokesperson for the Criminal Investigations Directorate, Twiine Charles, confirmed that an electronic fraud incident had been reported to police.

“The fraud incident has been reported. We are constituting a team of electronic countermeasures investigators and investigations begin effective Tuesday,” he said.

Pegasus was established in 2007 and currently handles as much as UGX1.7 trillion ($460 million) in financial transactions annually. This includes mobile money aggregation, mobile payments and remittances, loans and savings, and value-added services such as SMS, airtime, and data loading. Its flagship product, PegPay payments platform, is currently being used by several institutions including banks, telecoms, and utility companies such, retailers, Pay-Tv providers’ and schools, to aggregate and manage financial transactions for both internal and external purposes.

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Random African loves writing about the African continent. He is consistently in touch with happenings in every part of the continent and derives joy from providing fresh and crisp information for his audience.

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