Wednesday, 18 September, 2019

Man accused of bribing employees to plant malware at Bothell AT&T

ATT Bothell AT&T employees bribed with $1M to unlock millions of phones
Emmett Howard | 10 August, 2019, 00:56

A 34-year-old citizen of Pakistan, who is alleged to have paid insiders at telecommunications giant AT&T to plant malware and otherwise misuse computer networks to unlock cellphones, was charged in a 14-count federal indictment unsealed yesterday following his extradition from Hong Kong to the Western District of Washington.

According to the prosecutors, more than two million unlock requests were filed through the system in this way.

In a statement released on Monday, the Department of Justice said that the AT&T employees that received payment from Fahd unlocked the phones so the devices could work outside of AT&T's network. Finally, after some of the team who labored with Fahd have been fired, he allegedly persuaded some remaining co-conspirators to develop and set up malware within the company's system that would enable him to unlock phones remotely. Those who agreed to their demands received batches of global mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers, which they unlocked in return for money. Even though AT&T detected the malware in 2013 and identified various employees resonsible for the infection, Fahd's scheme continued until 2017. This story serves as a reminder of the serious threat companies face from malicious insiders. He was arrested February 4 in Hong Kong and extradited to the USA on August 2. The two were charged with paying over $1m in bribes to several AT&T employees at the telecom's Mobility Customer Care call center in Bothell, Washington. Fahd has a serious criminal history which includes intentional damage to a protected computer, wire fraud, and conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, violate the Travel Act. Fahd is facing a maximum of 20 years behind bars if found guilty. AT&T did now allow its customers to stop using its network while they were under contract with the carrier, according to the indictment. AT&T says the company lost almost $5 million in revenue due to the alleged conspiracy, which unlocked upwards of 2 million phones.

AT&T uses proprietary locking software on its phone in order to prevent its phone from getting used on any other wireless network except for the AT&T network until the phones were unlocked.

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The indictment also alleges that Fahd and Jiwani instructed AT&T employees on how to set up phony shell corporations to hide the flow of bribes and to communicate about what smartphones to unlock.

A year ago in March, the second superseding indictment was filed that stated how Fahd bribed AT&T employees and used their computer credentials and disabled AT&T's proprietary locking software.

"This defendant [Fahd] thought he could safely run his bribery and hacking scheme from overseas, making millions of dollars while he induced young workers to choose greed over ethical conduct", U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran, who is overseeing this case, notes in a statement.

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