Mobile Money fraud – Hackers break into system, stealing billions belonging to Airtel, MTN, Stanbic, and other financial institutions
Investigations have begun to unravel 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 telcos, banks, and other local, regional, and international money transfer services, making off with a yet to be known sum, but said to be in billions of Shillings according to the East Africa Magazine.
Leading telcos, Airtel and MTN Uganda, as well as Stanbic Bank, Uganda’s largest bank that also backs up 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 Uganda, MTN Uganda, and Airtel Uganda respectively, admitted there was an “incident”, but did not give details.
“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.
Twiine Charles, the Criminal Investigations Directorate spokesperson confirmed to CEO East Africa Magazine 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.
Established in 2007, Pegasus handles up to UGX1.7 trillion 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.