KAMPALA, Uganda: Airtel Uganda still grapples with a massive three-day hackers’ operational scam which saw the telecom firm alarmingly, and properly scammed out of an estimated UGX30Bn figure, The Investigator can confidently report.
Credible sources share how the swindle went about undetected for three days, counting from Thursday 27th – 29th Oct 2022. This means the hackers are highly sophisticated criminals and they evidently, properly understand their game very well. And therein exactly lies the mother of the massive problems.
The instant loot quickly brings to mind the other one involving a mobile money firm which was referred to as Pegasus. Pegasus is believed to have been looted out of such huge sums of money that the same would make the Airtel’s instant loot seem as if it is a minor incident. The loot saw the firm folding up. That Airtel’s loss arrives at the time when that of Pegasus remains unraveled by the security agencies, is disturbingly a testimony of our own country’s ability to manage the problem at hand, quickly or ever.
The same is accurate testimony to prove that we lack, as a country, better as well enough detectives required to investigate and get to the bottom of the computer related scams. The same can be said of the absence of the judicial officials possessing the required competencies to be able to handle these sophisticated cases. Even the least said about the availability of competent lawyers, the better.
Take into consideration that majority of our detectives are themselves still struggling to become ordinary ICT personnel to imagine yourself, the magnitude of the problem we are talking about in that area. When you read about what the boss of the country’s Financial Intelligence Agency, Sydney Asubo himself states about this problem, you clearly get to understand how we, as a country, are merely big on rhetoric than know-how, regarding the prevention, as well as managing the huge problem.
For hackers to spend three days doing their thing even without mentioning getting away with their loot without detection, demonstrates the magnitude of our expertise inadequacies to perceive, as well as stop this kind of criminality. If scammers are able to loot a staggering UGX30Bn unhindered, tell us what can stop them from paying off our poorly paid, poorly fed, poorly trained, poorly housed, poorly organized and poorly logistically facilitated detectives, from compromising investigations?
Stop laughing folks, this isn’t a joking matter. Forget one of Airtel’s lawyers’ attempts to treat the loot as not so alarming, the UGX30Bn involved in the firm`s scam, beats by far, the current ministry for children’s yawning budget worth merely UGX140m. We have been informed that the hackers of Airtel dug a huge hole in its accounts, far beyond what the firm reports.
The intention of posting the loot which is lower than the real one, is to help not to greatly alarm the customers who can panic and rush to clear their accounts of money and stop transacting with them. We understand that many banks have been hacked as well, but choose to suffer and lament silently other than opening up and end up recklessly rocking the Titanic. Knowledgeable sources divulge the scams to be cases of inside jobs which sharply brings to light the integrity issues of the staff involved.
The case of a MTN customer alleging to have been hacked and his money withdrawn even after refusing to share his password to the false mobile money agent, is shockingly a reminder that mobile money users aren’t safe at all. That the customer reveals to the Monitor newspaper how the scammer afforded to laugh loudly after assuring him that he can as well keep his passport since he could after all withdraw the funds without necessarily him sharing it, it is in itself more than alarming.
The fact of lately, alarming rate at which Airtel customers register drop calls on a minute basis, is further proof that mobile phones can be hacked and the hackers do anything they happen to desire to do. For how long are we going to suffer with hackers, is a question hard to provide answers to, since even big global firms boasting of hi-tech technology required to detect and stop scammers, aren’t themselves hack-proof.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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