Uganda’s Mobile Money systems suffer a massive security breach, billions lost

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On the fateful evening of Monday 5th October, MTN and Airtel Uganda announced an emergency shut down of their mobile money services after a reported interruption on their systems.

What started as vague rumours suggesting that billions of shillings might have been lost by Uganda’s top telecom networks in a swift money heist over the weekend turned out to catch some weight to it as the mentioned telcos both issued statements informing their customers that all bank to mobile money/wallet services has since been temporarily suspended.

2020 marks only 10 years since mobile money was introduced into Uganda. The wave has since deepened financial inclusion, incurring lower transaction costs, improving rural access to financial services and integrating greater customer convenience. According to the New Vision, the number of mobile money subscriptions by September 2017 was recorded at 23,726,352 while in June 2018 it was recorded at 22,733,823. The apparent decline in numbers followed deactivation of some unregistered numbers from the network.

Today, various reports suggest that unknown hackers broke into the system of Pegasus Technologies, the company which supposedly handles money between banks and the mobile money systems, before taking off with an unspecified amount of money belonging to several companies including banks and telecoms.

“Sadly I can’t comment on that. I can’t confirm or deny anything of the sort. I can’t speak about it. MTN/Stanbic/Airtel should be able to tell you whether it is Pegasus or not,”

said Ronald Azairwe, Managing Director Pegasus Technologies Limited. Source: CEO Magazine

Following this, Stanbic bank, Airtel and MTN Uganda have explained that there was no impact on any balances on both customer bank and mobile money accounts. Their technical teams are further analyzing the incident and will restore services as soon as possible.

The three companies released a joint statement and quote a third-party system incidence for being the reason as to why their respective customers can’t do transfers from their bank accounts to their respective mobile money wallets since Saturday 3rd October.

Among the affected companies is Liquid Telecom that has also issued a statement to its customers informing them that they are experiencing a system incident affecting mobile money payment options and has since shared their bank details to instead be used. The banks interestedly include Stanbic which was rumoured to be affected as well.

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