Three Former Employees charged in the lawsuit by AT&T

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AT&T launches lawsuit against 3 ex-employees in ‘unlock’ cellphone scheme.

AT&T is suing three former employees who the telecommunications giant claims were paid by another company to place malicious software programs on AT&T phones, PCmag.com reported. If you work at an AT&T store, but moonlight on the side by helping other resellers fraudulently unlock AT&T phones (through AT&T’s own systems), then odds are good at AT&T isn’t going to be very thrilled with you.Former AT&T employees are now facing a lawsuit from the company for allegedly paying thousands of dollars to have malware installed on company devices. 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. Kyra Evans, Marc Sapatin, and Nguyen Lam have worked for AT&T at a Washington call centre in 2013 when they allegedly took part in the illegal unlocking of smartphones. The three are said to have installed an illegal unlocking software, which then allows the phone to be used with other carriers apart from A&T – something that is against the company’s terms of use. “… perpetuated the Unlock Scheme by creating, distributing, and placing on AT&T’s computer systems a ‘malware’ program designed to fraudulently, and without authorization, transmit unlock requests that unlocked hundreds of thousands of phones from exclusive use on AT&T’s network,” the telco’s complaint reads. When a phone is unlocked, according to the complaint, “it can be used on multiple carrier systems rather than exclusively with AT&T,” a change which cuts directly into the heart of AT&T’s business model.

This created a profit motive to enable easier unlocking, and a company called Swift Unlocks, which AT&T is also suing, made a business of unlocking AT&T phones. 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 software also protects AT&T’s goodwill with respect to phones that carry AT&T’s brand, because some of the phones’ functionality may not work as effectively on non-AT&T networks,” the company said. Sapatin told at least one other AT&T employee he was trying to recruit that he knew an individual that had paid to develop software designed to unlock phones.

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. The one who paid Evans at least US$20,000, Prashant Vira, owns and operates “Swift Unlocks.” The latter has paid Evans to install the said malware on company-owned computers to execute the fraudulent unlocking of phones, PC Mag reported.

The breach is all the more significant given the revelation last month that AT&T handed over more than 1 billion domestic cellphone calling records per day to the NSA since 2011. The malware allegedly sent a bunch of proprietary and internal AT&T information to the the aforementioned defendants and up to 50 other “John Doe defendants” AT&T names in its complaint, which they would then use to tweak said malware, pass off to Evans, and have her reinstall on AT&T’s systems. 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. AT&T’s complaint asks for both financial damages, which will be determined later, as well as injunctions to prevent the defendants from continuing on with what they’re alleged to have done.

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