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A major hack that compromised Uganda’s mobile money network has plunged the country’s telecoms and banking sectors into crisis.

The Oct. 3 hack was a result of a security breach on a consumer finance aggregator, Pegasus Technologies, which mainly affected bank to mobile wallet transfers, according to an Oct. 8 statement by MTN Uganda, the country’s largest mobile phone company. Kampala-based Pegasus Technologies provides financial and billing solutions for various companies including all the affected entities.

At least $3.2 million is estimated to have been stolen in this latest incident with some reports quoting a much higher figure. The hackers used around 2,000 mobile SIM cards to gain access to the mobile money payment system, according to local papers. They then instructed the banks to transfer millions of dollars to telecommunication companies who then paid out mobile money to these different SIM cards across the country.

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MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda, suspended mobile money service transactions between their networks, indefinitely, following what they termed as an “unprecedented technical challenges” in a joint statement signed by their respective chief executive officers. The services are yet to be restored.

More than $20 billion worth of transactions was channeled through the mobile money system in 2019, according to Bank of Uganda, the country’s central bank. MTN alone has over 11 million subscribers and an 80% market share of mobile money transactions in the East African country.

According to MTN Uganda, only transactions via Stanbic Bank Uganda, MTN to Airtel and Sendwave, a cross-border payments service operating in six African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Liberia are affected.

On Oct. 6, MTN Uganda upgraded its system according to a statement issued to customers. During the period, data, voice and mobile money services were interrupted.

(Bloomberg) —

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Uganda’s police are searching for hackers who accessed the systems of a third party that processes phone-based transactions, with companies affected including MTN Group and Standard Bank Group’s local units.

The fraudsters got into the mobile-money systems and stole funds, according to Charles Twine, spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Department. Investigations will help identify how the systems were hacked, the people involved and the amount of money stolen, he said.

The “system incident” at the third party “impacted bank-to-mobile money transactions,” MTN Uganda, Stanbic Bank Uganda and Airtel Africa’s local unit said in a joint statement.

Mobile money, as it’s known, is popular in Africa for making payments for everything from groceries to utility bills, with options to borrow, save and invest using almost any type of cellphone. The system has become indispensable that governments also uses it for services, and breaches would have far-reaching impact.

READ: Virus Is Hastening Mobile-Banking Pioneer’s Race to Replace Cash

Mobile-money payments in Uganda increased 19% to 79.8 trillion Ugandan shillings ($21.5 billion) in the year to end-June, according to the central bank. In Kenya, the value of such transactions in the seven months through July increased 4% year-on-year to 2.6 trillion Kenyan shillings ($24 billion).

Some services were suspended as a precaution, and mobile-money users’ account balances weren’t affected, MTN said in a separate statement.

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(Bloomberg) — The board of NTT Docomo Inc. is holding a meeting Tuesday to discuss Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp.’s plans to turn its wireless carrier unit into a wholly owned subsidiary, a move that may help Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s push to lower phone tariffs.



a group of people standing next to a sign: Pedestrians cross a road in front of an NTT Docomo Inc. store in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Docomo this month cut prices on its mobile phone data plans, some by as much as 40 percent, responding to government pressure to reduce prices that it says are among the world's highest.


© Bloomberg
Pedestrians cross a road in front of an NTT Docomo Inc. store in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Docomo this month cut prices on its mobile phone data plans, some by as much as 40 percent, responding to government pressure to reduce prices that it says are among the world’s highest.

The buyout could be worth as much as 4 trillion yen ($38 billion), based on a 30% premium to Monday’s closing price in Tokyo, the Nikkei newspaper reported earlier. Given that parent NTT already controls 66% of the wireless carrier, any proposal is all but guaranteed to pass. The transaction may be announced as soon as today.

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The proposal to combine the former national companies comes just 15 days after Suga succeeded Shinzo Abe as the nation’s prime minister. With government documents showing data-heavy users in Tokyo pay more than three times for a monthly contract than users in Paris, Suga has made reducing phone bills charged by Docomo and Japan’s other major carriers a priority to score a quick policy win and avoid being seen as a caretaker leader, market watchers have said.

The deal to buy Docomo would be the largest tender offer for a Japanese company in history. When NTT spun out Docomo in 1998, it was also the biggest-ever initial public offering at the time.

“It’s likely that one of the goals here is for NTT to push for lower rates,” said Naoki Fujiwara, chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management Co. “It’s

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