back to article There's fraud, and then there's backdoor routers, fenced logins, malware, and bribing AT&T staff seven figures to unlock 2m phones

AT&T staff were bribed $1m to slip the codes to unlock two million smartphones to a gang operating out of Pakistan, US prosecutors have claimed. When those telco workers took too long to cough up the codes, the crew bought copies of the employees' work login credentials and used them to go straight into the cellular giant's …

  1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    WTF?

    Error: Article too short

    Try reporting the story twice using different words.

    1. CaptSmegHead

      Re: Error: Article too short

      agreed. try this: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/leader-conspiracy-illegally-unlock-cell-phones-profit-extradited-hong-kong

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Deliberate greed

    So thats why AT&T locked the phones in the first place, in order that they can make money for unlocking. Corporate gouging at its worst.

    And please dont tell me they are subsidised. There is no such thing. Its all priced in the package. Locking/unlocking phones is just another revenue stream, by design.

    The guy was doing a humanitarian service in helping avoid huge costs in unlocking. Should be honoured by Trump. Oh wait, was his name Mohammed? No chance then.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Deliberate greed

      AT&T like most carriers offer plans where you lease a phone and pay over time, if you're able to unlock them they can break the lease and use/sell the phone overseas. No doubt part of the scheme was using stolen personal information to lease phones for which unlock information was required.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Deliberate greed

        How does "unlocking" break the lease?

        You're still contractually obliged to pay the monthly lease, regardless of whether the handset is on AT&Ts network, turned off in a drawer somewhere, accidentally buried in concrete or exported overseas and on another carrier.

        I'm sure this ring was primarily dealing in stolen phones or similar, but carrier locks are gouging, pure and simple.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Deliberate greed

          You are not obliged to pay the monthly lease, if the credentials are stolen... Or if the phone is stolen - AT&T should then put the IMEI on the blocked list, but most carriers ignore this.

          Over here, the carrier can lock the phone to their network for the duration of the lease purchase. When that runs out, they either have to automatically unlock it or unlock it for free upon request.

          That said, most people I know buy the phone outright from a discounter, like Amazon, Alternate etc. or a local electronics shot, nowadays and just stick their SIM in it. Company phones are about the only ones I know that are still on contract (although I know a couple of companies that now buy phones in bulk and issue them to their employees and get SIM only contracts. The days of heavily subsidised phones are long gone, here.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: Deliberate greed

            IMEI blacklists aren't shared worldwide, if AT&T puts a phone on the blacklist in the US it won't stop it from being used outside of North America. I don't believe the US list is shared with Europe, let alone China.

            So you obtain a leased phone from AT&T using a stolen credit card number, unlock it, then sell it in China as new - you still have the original packaging and will have hardly touched it. Getting stolen credit cards is easy, finding buyers for iPhones at a discount in China is easy. The hard part is getting them unlocked, but these guys found a way around that - and the market must be pretty lucrative if they thought it was worthwhile to pay AT&T employees $1 million for the service.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Deliberate greed

              "IMEI blacklists aren't shared worldwide"

              That's being worked on.

  3. cantankerous swineherd

    not sure unlocking phones is much of a crime really.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      But bribery, theft, computer misuse etc. are.

    2. tmTM

      No-one has asked how these guys got their hands on 2 million phones locked to AT&T ??

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    "he induced young workers to choose greed over ethical conduct,"

    Um, we're talking about AT&T right ?

    Not sure the workers are the greedy ones here.

  5. ma1010 Silver badge
    Alert

    Do Not Steal!

    AT&T really hates competition. $DEITY knows they ripped me off for enough over the years until I was finally able to get rid of them.

  6. Grikath

    question marks abound

    Reading the article, I can't help but think: "What aren't we being told here?....."

    I get the unlocking "scam" , and how a percentage-bribe could tempt obviously well-paid AT&T servicedesk drones in helping to make this setup work to Profit All People Involved.

    But given the level/method of access described in the article, I can't help wondering "what else has they got in their pocketses", and who got it?

  7. CaptSmegHead

    No doubt this scheme was running out of Chunking Mansions. Notorious for copy phones, "china phones" and 14 day phones

  8. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    So thats why AT&T locked the phones in the first place, in order that they can make money for unlocking.

    It is the price of doing business.

    Fahd's team went so far as to get one AT&T staffer to hook up rogue Wi-Fi gateways in the company's network that would grant the intruders backdoor access to the telco's machines without the need for stolen credentials.

    I must admit the man's got some cajones to pull off a scheme like this.

    1. Edwin

      One of the few cases

      where I'm cheerfully saying "ha ha" at both the "victim" and the perp. 'Cause they're all criminals.

  9. Tempest
    Happy

    There are so many ...

    websites that provide free unlock codes ... 'locked' cell handsets hardly warrant the name.

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