AT&T employees bribed to hack the system: DOJ

AT&T hacker

ZDNet was the first on the scene and it reports that a couple of baddies called Muhammad Fahd and Ghulam Jiwani were charged by the US DoJ with shelling out more that a million bucks in bribes to AT&T employees in order to get them to unlock phones identified by specific IMEI codes.

In exchange for their help, the AT&T employees allegedly received a total of more than $1 million in bribes.

Reporting in The Verge today shows an individual named Muhammad Fahd has been extradited to the USA from Hong Kong on charges that he paid large sums of money, in one instance almost $500,000, to AT&T employees to unlock devices.

Fahd would simply provide the AT&T insiders with phone International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers and that they would use the firm's internal systems to unlock the phones.

Fahd was detained in Hong Kong on 4 February 2018 but was only able to be extradited to the USA on 2 August 2019.

If found guilty, Fahd faces up to 20 years in prison for a litany of charges, including several counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The charges stem from a scheme where Fahd and co-conspirators recruited AT&T employees with access to customer accounts, with the aim of unlocking iPhones and other smartphones between 2012 and 2017.

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According to federal investigators, three of Fahd's other co-conspirators have so far pleaded guilty to accepting the bribes.

And when those AT&T staffers were caught and fired for leaking their usernames and passwords, the foreign gang paid someone to install wireless routers on the U.S. giant's internal network that gave them backdoor access to the telco's systems to, again, silently and secretly obtain phone unlock codes, it is alleged. Initially, the two Pakistani men bribed AT&T employees to unlock expensive iPhones so they could be used outside AT&T's network. This second malware used AT&T employee credentials to perform automated actions on AT&T's internal application to unlock phone's at Fahd's behest, without needing to interact with AT&T employees every time.

The DOJ reports that Jiwani is dead, but while he assisted in the scheme he aggregated IMEI numbers and paid out the bribes in the USA and Dubai.

"Now he will be held accountable for the fraud and the lives he has derailed". By unlocking phones connected to AT&T and removing them from their service plans, the conspiracy effectively cost the company more than $9.5 million, prosecutors say. AT&T used proprietary locking software, preventing the hardware from being used on another carrier while it was still under contract to the company, something which Fahd sought to disable on devices.

"We have been working closely with law enforcement since this scheme was uncovered to bring these criminals to justice and are pleased with these developments", AT&T said in a statement to ABC News, and a spokesperson added that this incident did not compromise customer information or affect any customers.

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