Lonestar Cell MTN, one of two mobile telephone companies operating in Liberia, has sued its rival Orange in a British court for damages caused by massive cyber-attacks experienced on its network from 2015 to 2017.
Also attached as a co-defendant to the lawsuit is Cellcom, the Liberian mobile company which was acquired by Orange in 2015. The trial is expected to begin in two weeks time, on the 20th of this month.
Lonestar Cell MTN is claiming that the cyber-attacks, technically known as DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, had negatively impacted its business over a period of two years.
However, it cannot be denied that these attacks did have a negative impact on the entire country of Liberia, as businesses and subscribers were unable to communicate during this period. Experts have reported that the world had never before seen an attack of this magnitude.
Liberia and Liberians were cut off from bank transactions, farmers could not check crop prices, and students could not do any work or research online during these attacks.
In the capital of Monrovia, the largest hospital went offline each time the attacks came on. Infectious disease specialists dealing with the aftermath of a deadly Ebola outbreak lost contact with international health agencies.
“Eugene Nagbe, Liberia's then Minister for Information, was in Paris on official business when the attacks began. He struggled to marshal a response, unable to access his email or a reliable phone connection. Then his bank card stopped working. On Nov. 8, 2015 with hundreds of thousands of people still disconnected, Nagbe went on French radio to appeal for help. "The scale of the attack tells us that this is a matter of grave concern, not just to Liberia but to the global community that is connected to the internet," he said.
The onslaught continued. No one seemed to know why, but there was speculation that the hack was a test run for something bigger, perhaps even an act of war."
Two years ago, an English national by the name of Daniel Kaye, then age 30, admitted in a London court to carrying out these DDoS attacks, and evidence was gathered during his trial of exchanges between him and the management of one of the defendants instructing him to carry out these actions.
“He was subsequently found guilty of orchestrating the massive cyber-attack against Lonestar Cell MTN and was sentenced to 32 months in prison, after pleading guilty to computer misuse and criminal property possession from late 2016 to early 2017. The court heard that the self-taught hacker was paid around $30,000 (26,000 euros) by a rival to disrupt the systems of mobile phone company Lonestar MTN, Liberia's biggest internet provider."
The now 32-year-old remains at the heart of a major international investigation into hundreds of acts of cyber sabotage around the world. The National Crime Agency says Kaye is perhaps the most significant cybercriminal yet caught in the UK, jailing Kaye for 32 months at Blackfriars Crown Court in London. This is believed to be the first time that a single cyber attacker had disrupted an entire nation's internet - albeit without intending to do so." (BBC)
The public awaits the outcome of this trial as it is unique in nature and will set the precedence as well as serve as a deterrent for a repeat of this egregious and disruptive activity in not only the telecommunications space, but other sectors such as money transfers, payment systems, and banking.