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Hackers steal over UGX14 billion from Uganda banks

Hackers have left the banking sector in Uganda in a precarious situation after stealing $4 million in the last 12 months (PHOTO /Courtesy).

Hackers have left the banking sector in Uganda in a precarious situation after stealing UGX 14 billion in the last 12 months. This was contained in a cyber-crime report by the country’s Interpol director Charles Birungi.

According to the report, UGX 14 billion has been lost in more than 200 cases of Hitech, international and economic crimes of which bank fraud, issuance of fake visa, and online business fraud topped the list. The report further noted that banks in Uganda are silent on the issues because they do not want to cause anxiety among their clients.

“Of the $4 million (UGX.14billion) [total] you are seeing, $3 million was recorded in just 10 cases of bank fraud,” The Observer quoted an IT security officer.

“These are the banks that were bold enough to come out and seek our intervention in tracing for hackers based here and outside countries. But majority of the cases are never reported. They know if they keep reporting, people will feel insecure when their money is kept in a bank that is often hacked.”

According to Business Insider, the issuance of fake visas accounted for the second-highest rate of fraud with $542,500 (UGX.1.9 billion) lost. Online business fraud caused a loss of $112,441 while internet fraud and email hacking also caused losses of $82,000 and $32,000 respectively.

Business Insider further reports that in 2020, mobile payment service providers and digital payment systems in Uganda lost billions after hackers hit a third-party payment technology company.

“MTN and Airtel Uganda which control at least more than 90 percent of the mobile money market hold escrow accounts with Stanbic Bank and the two telecoms were believed to have been the biggest hit of the hack. This forced mobile money service providers to suspend bank to mobile money or wallet transactions at the time,” the report noted.

Speaking to the Observer, a Ugandan IT expert, Paul Senoga, said the solution to the hacking problem is for companies to hire permanent and competent people who will be testing their systems regularly to find security loopholes.

“Once someone gains access to your bank account, they can transfer the money to anybody or any account they want. The banks have come up with Apps to simplify banking but they are suffering. Money is being wiped off accounts. Banks are not just revealing what is happening but it’s huge,” Senoga said.

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