Nalukoola, Kakeeto Advocates & Solicitors, a law firm that represents Halimu Chongomweru, a lecturer at Makerere University, wants telecommunications company MTN Uganda Limited to cough Shs260 million following a hack into their client’s SIM card.
In their ‘Notice of Intention to Sue’ addressed to the Chief Executive of MTN Uganda Limited, the law firm says that Chongomweru’s SIM card was recently hacked by a yet-to-be-identified person.
On July 19, Chongomweru who has been using MTN sim card number 0772 851 937 for over 13 years, received a request prompting him to change his Gmail password.
Shortly after, another message came in notifying him that SIM swap for his number had been initiated. It also told him that if he hadn’t initiated one, he should call MTN Uganda.
“On the 19% day of July 2019 at around 2:05pm our client received a verification code from Google requiring him to change his Gmail password, thereafter he received a text message from MTN informing him that a swap request for his MTN sim card (0772-85-19-37) has been received and cautioned him that if he did not request for a swap he should call 100,” reads in part the notice.
“Our client heed to the directive issued by MTN and immediately called 100 which he realized that it is a toll-free MTN customer care line where he reported and informed the MTN customer care agent not to authorize the impending swap since it was not him.”
However, in the process of talking to the customer care agent, the phone calls dropped twice. When the second one dropped, the notice continues, the “phone displayed invalid sim card.”
On receiving that message, Halimu Chongomweru, who is also CEO of Newline Technologies, grew anxious since his Gmail account was now in hands of a hacker who had taken over his SIM card.
The Gmail is also linked to his other accounts like Paypal, dropbox and Webhosting manager.
“Promptly our client tried to access his other online accounts that are attached to his Gmail including but not limited to Paypal, Webhosting manager for hosting his client’s Emails/websites and dropbox that stores his confidential information, unfortunately, he was blocked out and they were as well-controlled/managed by a hacker,” says the notice.
“At around 4:30pm or thereabout our client tweeted expressing his concern/ dismay, the MTN online agent responded privately and required that our client avails him with his account details which he did and before he could get any assistance a hacker accessed this Twitter handle and blocked him out since it is also linked to his Gmail.”
Verified SIM card
The law firm is wondering how a hacker was able to access the SIM card yet their client had gone through all SIM registration and verification processes, including the latest.
“… he religiously submitted to all series of sim card registration including, the recently concluded MTN sim card verification exercise,” the firm says.
In a recent statement, the Uganda Communications Commission indicated that SIM card hacks are orchestrated by telco staffers.
Even the law firm agrees with that notion.
“… it is therefore practically impossible for someone to pass-off and subsequently swap an already registered & verified sim card without being put to strict proof and satisfaction of the above-listed requirements,” the firm writes in the notice.
“The prompt effectiveness in executing this scheme is a clear manifestation that it was a well-orchestrated cyber-attack on our client where your company deliberately in breach of its obligations/duty of trust/confidentiality and in connivance with anonymous person availed/volunteered/surrendered and divulged our client’s entrusted confidential information which led to the penetration of his biodata that is likely to prejudice his safety, social and economic life to his detriment.”
First, the firm wants MTN Uganda to “identity the MTN agent who executed” the hack into the SIM card of Halimu Chongomweru.
The lawyers also want the telco to pay Shs150 million as “damages for compensation of our client” for having his SIM card disconnected since July 19.
Within 7 days, the firm also wants MTN Uganda to pay Shs100m for, among other things, “untold suffering and mental anguish”.
The firm also needs Shs10m as legal fees. This brings the total to Shs260 million.