Orange Liberia, Cellcom Face Legal Action by Lonestar Cell MTN

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Daniel Kaye (Photo: National Crime Agency, UK)

With cyberattacker from 2016 nabbed, tried and jailed in the UK, Lonestar Cell MTN goes after those who allegedly ordered the attack on the company.

Lonestar Cell MTN has officially confirmed that it has provided a business impact statement in the criminal proceedings against Daniel Kaye, a British hacker in the UK, whose cyberattacks took Liberia offline after launching series of attacks on Lonestar Cell MTN in October 2015.

The company said in a press statement issued on Sunday, January 13, that the criminal proceedings against Mr. Kaye relate to a sustained cyber-attack carried out between late 2015 and early 2017 by Mr. Kaye (and other parties) on Lonestar Cell MTN.

The statement further noted that this cyber-attack by Mr. Kaye was a targeted and sustained act of industrial sabotage designed to disrupt Lonestar’s business and that of our customers, so as to create advantage for Lonestar’s competitors.

The statement also said the attack has 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 statement said.

“At the time,” the BBC reported, “Liberia’s internet was dependent on both a small number of providers and a relatively limited Atlantic cable. European nations, by comparison, have a vastly more secure internet because traffic can reach users through many different connection routes.

“Kaye had sent so much traffic at Lonestar, the entire national system jammed.

“According to investigators, the country’s internet repeatedly failed between 3 November and 4 November 2016 – disrupting not just Lonestar but organisations and ordinary users up and down the state.

“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,” the BBC said.

According to Lonestar Cell MTN, the defendants to the proceedings are Mr. Kaye, Mr. Avishai Marziano, Cellcom Telecommunications Limited, Mr. Ran Polani and Orange Liberia, Inc.

The Financial Times reported that Kaye, 30, who was allegedly hired by an official at rival operator Cellcom Liberia to carry out the attacks has been confirmed by the British National Crime Agency.

Kaye pleaded guilty to the crime on Friday at Blackfriars Crown Court in central London and is to be sentenced in prison for two years and eight months to creating and using a botnet, a series of computers connected in order to attack systems, and possessing criminal property last month.

According to report, 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.” Detail of this report on how the entire drama started a few years ago which eventually led to Daniel Kaye, the British hacker to launch his criminal cyber attacks on Lonestar Cell MTN will come in our subsequent report.

Meanwhile, the corporate communications strategist of Orange Liberia (formerly Cellcom), Dr. Kimmie L. Weeks, told the Daily Observer via mobile phone: “For now, no comment.”

Kaye, from Egham in Surrey, is a self-taught hacker who began selling his considerable skills on the dark web – offering individuals opportunities to target and destroy their business rivals, the BBC reported.

According to court papers, Kaye was hired in 2015 to attack Lonestar, Liberia’s leading mobile phone and internet company, by an individual working for Cellcom, its competitor.

There is no suggestion that Cellcom knew what the employee was doing – but the individual offered Kaye up to $10,000 (£7,800) a month to use his skills to do as much as possible to destroy Lonestar’s service and reputation.

Robin Sellers, prosecuting, told Blackfriars Crown Court that in November 2016 Kaye had built a “botnet” – a particularly powerful form of cyber attack that is designed to overwhelm a target’s systems, making it impossible to carry out normal business.

This type of attack is known as a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS). It is different to a ransom demand that locks up systems, such as the “Wannacry” attack on the NHS.

In written submissions to the court, the BBC reported, Babatunde Osho, Lonestar’s former chief executive, said Kaye’s criminality had been devastating.

“The DDOS perpetrated by Daniel Kaye seriously compromised Lonestar’s ability to provide a reliable internet connection to its customers,” said Mr Osho.

“In turn, Mr Kaye’s actions prevented Lonestar’s customers from communicating with each other, obtaining access to essential services and carrying out their day-to-day business activities.

“A substantial number of Lonestar’s customers switched to competitors.

“In the years preceding the DDOS attacks, Lonestar’s annual revenue exceeded $80m (£62.4m). Since the attacks, revenue has decreased by tens of millions and its current liabilities have increased by tens of millions.”

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