Liberia: LoneStar Cell MTN Sues Cellcom, Orange over Cyber Attack
MONROVIA – LoneStar Cell MTN says it has initiated a lawsuit against Mr. Daniel Kaye, a British hacker who took down their internet in 2015 and early 2017. Cellcom Liberia, now Orange Liberia and some of its operatives including Avishai Marziano former CEO of Cellcom, Mr Ran Polani and Orange Liberia, Inc. are all defendants in the lawsuit.
LoneStar, according to a rather short statement released Sunday evening said, it commenced the civil proceedings in the English Commercial Court.
According to LoneStar, it provided a business impact statement in the criminal proceedings against Kaye, which landed him a three-year eight months jail sentence by a British Court for carrying out cyber-attack on LoneStar’s network.
“The cyber-attack was a targeted and sustained act of industrial sabotage designed to disrupt Lonestar’s business and that of our customers, so as to advantage Lonestar’s competitors. The attack caused considerable damage to Lonestar’s business and disruption to our customers in Liberia. In those circumstances, Lonestar Cell MTN and MTN Group considered it was appropriate and indeed important to provide a business impact statement to explain the impact of the cyber-attack on Lonestar.”
“Lonestar Cell MTN can also confirm that, for the same reasons, it has commenced civil proceedings in the English Commercial Court against a number of parties in relation to the cyber-attack carried out against Lonestar. The Defendants to the proceedings are Mr. Kaye, Mr. Avishai Marziano, Cellcom Telecommunications Limited, Mr. Ran Polani and Orange Liberia, Inc.,” the statement disclosed.
According to CNN, Kaye, 30, had been hired to carry out the attacks by a senior employee at rival operator Cellcom, Britain’s National Crime Agency said in a statement, although there is no suggestion that Cellcom was aware of the activity.
He pleaded guilty to creating and using a botnet, a series of computers connected in order to attack systems, and possessing criminal property last month. Kaye was sentenced on Friday at Blackfriars Crown Court in central London to two years and eight months in prison.
While living in Cyprus, Kaye used a botnet he had created to trigger repeated distributed denial of service (DDoS) requests on Lonestar, causing the company to spend around $600,000 in remedial action.
The additional impact of customers leaving the network caused the company to lose tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue, the NCA added.
Following his arrest in February 2017, Kaye was extradited to Germany, where he also admitted to attacks on Deutsche Telekom that affected around 1 million customers in November 2016.
“Daniel Kaye was operating as a highly skilled and capable hacker-for-hire,” Mike Hulett, Head of Operations at the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said.
“His activities inflicted substantial damage on numerous businesses in countries around the world, demonstrating the borderless nature of cyber crime,” he added. “The victims in this instance suffered losses of tens of millions of dollars and had to spend a large amount on mitigating action.”
Meanwhile, a source at Orange Liberia told FrontPageAfrica that allegations and claim by LoneStar that they lost revenue and market due to cyber-attacks is completely bogus and a scam.
The Orange Official who preferred not be named said, since 2012 market trend shows a continuous decline in Lonestar’s revenue performance and devaluation of their brand.
“While Lonstar’s revenue declined, their subscriber base however grew. Which means that the average revenue per user went down, as well as, the total market revenue decreased. It is very clear that the results shows Lonestar suffered instability as a company, poor management, bad strategical decisions refusing to adjust to changes in the market and public boycott against the company and its controversial local stakeholders,” the Orange official said.
The Orange official also expressed concern why LoneStar Cell MTN would file a civil suit in the United Kingdom instead of Liberia, especially so when LoneStar Chairman during the period the alleged hack took place, Mr. Benoni Urey and his partner, Emmanuel Shaw, were both on UN imposed travel ban and asset freeze. “It is most likely that neither would appear in court in the U.K. if we asked for their presence for questioning….so why UK?” asked the Orange Official.
According to the Orange source, LoneStar Cell MTN began to decline in revenue since 2015 when it could not compete in the GSM space in Liberia.
In March 2016, the Chairman of LoneStar by then, Mr. Urey, wrote former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to draw her attention to what he considered as uncontrolled competitive price war being waged in the Liberian telecommunications industry.
The letter indicated that the long running and unending promotions, as well as freebies like the free calls to the USA, $1 for 3 days calls, $1 for 5 days and $5 for 3Gb date for one month, etc. were negatively impacting government revenue and revenue to the GSM Companies and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority.
An attached analysis to the communications to the President showed that revenue loss in 2013 and 2014 amounted to US$22 million. “In 2013 when the promotions were introduced LoneStar tax obligation to the government dropped from $47.9 million to $38.6 million in 2014 ( 9% drop year on year equivalent to USD9.3 million) and to $27.5 million in 2015 (20% drop year on year, equivalent USD11 million). There could be further economic repercussions if these promotions are not stopped; regrettable, no one sees the need to act and save the telecom industry,” the letter to President Sirleaf at the time noted.