Ex-AT&T employees secretly unlocked ‘hundreds of thousands’ of phones in 2013

19 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AT&T Employees Installed Malware on Their PCs to Aid Phone Unlocking Service.

These phones are usually locked, so customers won’t be able to jump ship to another carrier without fully paying for the phone or by finishing their contract.AT&T has filed a lawsuit against 3 former call center employees, accusing them of installing malware on their servers with the purpose of aiding a phone unlocking service obtain AT&T unlock codes.Back in 2013, a company called Swift Unlocks would have been one of your best bets if you wanted to unlock your AT&T-branded phone through the sales of unlock codes. The company would sell unlock codes for anything from an iPhone to a Fire Phone, letting AT&T customers wriggle out of their contracts long before the subsidy was paid off.

Consumers are legally allowed to request that their carrier unlock their phones – once they’ve been paid off in full – so that the phone can then be connected to a competing carrier’s network. The three former employees allegedly used malware developed by a group of unidentified developers to file hundreds of thousands of automated requests to unlock AT&T’s customers’ phones, according to the filing, which was first reported by GeekWire on Friday. Sapatin and Evans would be paid at least $10,000 by the company between April and October of 2013, according to Prashant Vira, who operates Swift Unlocks, so long as they agreed to install a remote access tool, which would allow Swift Unlocks to instantaneously have access to any unlock code. AT&T claims Swift Unlocks paid AT&T employee Marc Sapatin $10,500 and Kyra Evans $20,000 to install unlock software in the carrier’s systems while they worked at an AT&T call center in 2013. As GeekWire reports, Sapatin, one of the three employees involved with the scheme, also tried to recruit a fourth, bragging that this scheme includes many people across the country, including other carriers outside AT&T.

The website asks for a select fee to unlock certain line of devices and carriers though AT&T is questioning how Swift Unlock was able to obtain these codes. The company first noticed the scheme when it saw a noticeable uptick in the number of unlock requests issued by two call-center employees, often within milliseconds of each other.

The carrier, the nation’s second largest, says the defendants created a software program that allowed an external server to issue unlock permissions to AT&T phones. Unfortunately for the accused, those requests were still being made under their own employee codes, so the company quickly traced the new requests back to them. “It’s important to note that this did not involve any improper access of customer information, or any adverse effect on our customers,” an AT&T spokesman told The Verge.

Things didn’t stop there, however, as Sapatin allegedly tried to bring other AT&T employees into the fold, with Sapatin telling one employee “that she would make $2,000 every two weeks through her participation in the Unlock Scheme,” wrote AT&T. During the same period, AT&T was hacked by a criminal organization looking to unlock stolen phones before selling them, a breach that also resulted in a $25 million fine from the FCC. The alleged scheme is similar to others “in which illegal operators buy or steal large quantities of phones (prepaid or with term contracts), unlock them, and resell them in foreign markets that do not subsidize the devices”, AT&T wrote.

The company is accusing all the defendants of hacking crimes, “breach of loyalty,” interfering with AT&T’s customer contracts, and “unjust enrichment.

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