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    Firm Founded by Israeli Pilots Connected to Massive Cyberattack in Angola

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    The attacks were designed to put a competitor - one of the most popular cellular phone brands in Africa - out of business.

    Since 2016, an international criminal probe has investigated claims Cellcom Liberia, a company closely connected to a trio of former Israeli fighter pilots who profited from Angola's 27-year-long civil war, ordered an Israeli-British hacker to wage continuous cyberattacks against competitor firm Lonestar.

    However, the DDoS attacks (Distributed Denial of Service) grew to such an extent by November 2016 the Liberian government believed the state itself was actually being targeted. This led to the unravelling of the conspiracy, and the arrest in February 2017 of the hacker responsible — Daniel Kaye — at Luton Airport, UK.

    Kaye, an Israel-UK dual citizen raised in Israel, was subsequently extradited to Germany, after Berlin issued an international arrest warrant — he'd made use of hundreds of thousands of routers belonging to Deutche Telecom during his activities. In May that year he admitted his role in the attack, and prosecutors quickly concluded the German telecoms giant wasn't his actual target.

    In his own words, he was "looking for devices exposed for infiltration all over the world, and I happened to use Deutche Telecom routers". He also made clear he "didn't want to attack Liberia", and instead wanted to "take down a cellular network in Liberia named Lonestar Cell (of the MTN group)".

    Where Culpability Lies

    He has now told a German court the hacking was ordered directly by Cellcom Liberia CEO Avishai Marciano, although it's unclear when the attacks began — it's been suggested they endured from the final months of 2015 until February 2017. This is a vital question, as they're suspected to have taken place before — or during the sale of the company moved to Orange in mid-2016.

    Before the purchase, one of the controlling shareholders of Cellcom Liberia from its establishment in 2004 until mid-2016 was a shadowy business empire named LR Group. Marciano stepped down as CEO around the time of the sale, replaced by a different Israeli also appointed by LR. The new company chief resigned several months after the attack ended.

    LR was founded in the 1980s by a trio of former Israeli Air Force pilots — Eitan Stiva, Ami Lustig and Roee Ben-Yami — and made its riches by capitalizing on business opportunities arising out of Angola's 27-year-long civil war, which ended 2002. First, it was involved in defense exports in Angola, flooding the country with arms and training government troops, and building security systems. This support may have been critical in helping Jose Eduardo dos Santos, President of Angola 1979 — 2017, in clinging on to power during the bitter internal conflict.

    Once the war ended, the former pilots broke into infrastructure, technology and agriculture projects in Angola and nearby countries such as Congo, Chad, Ghana and Nigeria, along the way engaging in  philanthropic work which they publicized far and wide in the Israeli media.

    In a statement, LR Group said it was "surprised to hear about the case", and stressed it took place after it sold Cellcom Liberia

    "[LR Group] deny anything to do with this if it indeed took place. We thoroughly condemn any aggressive behavior on the web and have always taken strict care that company directors and employees belonging to the group operate only within the confines of local and international regulatory law," the firm added.

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    Tags:
    hacking allegations, cyberattack, civil war, hacking, Israel, Angola
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