MTN Uganda says customer data safe despite security raid

Monday July 9 2018

An MTN station in Uganda. NMG

An MTN station in Uganda. The telco's data centre in Mutundwe was raided on July 2, 2018 and four of its servers disconnected. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI | NMG 

By JULIUS BARIGABA
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MTN, Uganda's largest telecom, has said its customers' data was not breached in the raid, last week, on its data centre by agents said to be from the country's domestic intelligence unit.

The MTN chairman Charles Mbire, at a press briefing on Monday, said no data was retrieved from the telco's servers.

“There were several attempts by the intruders to log into MTN Uganda’s servers over a period of two hours. The efforts were unsuccessful because of the company’s robust information security systems, and no data was accessed or compromised by the intruders,” Mr Mbire said.

He said that on Monday July 2 at around 5pm, heavily armed men in civilian clothing, who identified themselves as Internal Security Organisation (ISO) agents, kidnapped two employees of Huawei Uganda Ltd – the telco's contractor, from its head office at MTN Towers.

The contractors were detained at an ungazetted location, Mr Mbire said, and later forced to grant unauthorised physical access to the MTN data centre at Mutundwe, a Kampala suburb.

While security chiefs in Kampala are evasive about the motive of the operation, some insiders say this is “a serious matter” which Ugandans “will soon hear a lot about.”

MTN company secretary Anthony Katamba said the alleged ISO agents were nine in number and drove off from MTN Towers with the Huawei workers in two vehicles "full of guns". He added that at the data centre the number of agents had doubled.

The telco, a unit of MTN South Africa, reported to police a case of illegal intrusion into the data centre and disconnection of four servers.

It has however denied reports that it is being investigated over breach of national security and tax evasion.

“Data integrity is a very fundamental thing. It is best that legal representation is taken, and it is prudent that where there is some sort of legal and police intervention, we do not take any position that is contrary to the laws of Uganda,” said Mr Katamba.

At the press briefing the company's lawyers, from Kampala Associated Advocates and Sebalu, Lule and Company Advocates, were also present.

Security sources however, said this could be the start of a crackdown on the telecommunication sector, which, in the wake of the uproar against social media and mobile money tax, President Yoweri Museveni has publicly said to have been fleecing the country.

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