Uganda police probe hacking of mobile money processing firm

KAMPALA, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Ugandan police said on Wednesday they were investigating the hacking of a firm that processes mobile money transactions for two telecoms firms, including a unit of South Africa’s MTN group.

Mobile money is a cellphone-enabled service that allows subscribers to transfer and receive money and pay for such things as utilities bills, food orders and cab rides.

The platform has developed rapidly in Africa. In Uganda, a total of 73 trillion Uganda shillings ($20 billion) worth of transactions passed through the mobile money system in 2019, according to the central bank.

Pegasus Technologies Ltd, whose network was hacked, processes mobile money transactions between MTN Uganda, the east African country’s largest telecom operator, and Airtel, a unit of India’s Bharti Airtel.

“We are investigating the allegations that the aggregation system of Pegasus was hacked into by unauthorised people,” Charles Twiine, spokesman for Uganda Police’s criminal investigations and intelligence department (CIID), told Reuters.

“We are going to establish whether there was any loss of money that was occasioned, how the loss was occasioned and who the perpetrators are.”

Calls for comment to Ronald Azairwe, the managing director of Pegasus, went unanswered.

In a brief statement on Monday, MTN and Airtel said a third party service provider had experienced what they called a “system incident” that affected some of the firms’ mobile money transactions.

The telecoms said as a result of the incident, they had suspended some of the transactions. They did not name Pegasus, but Twiine confirmed the affected service provider was Pegasus. (Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Giles Elgood)