The US Justice Department says it has deported a Pakistani man from Hong Kong and arrested him of bribing the AT&T employees to unlock more than 2 million cellphones. The scheme unlocked more than 2 million cell phones over the five-year span, prosecutors say.
According to a Department of Justice release, Fahd is alleged to have paid insiders at the Bothell facility in the neighborhood of $1 million to plant malware and tap into computer networks to unlock the phones.
"Muhammad Fahd provided the hardware devices to co-conspirators, including current and former AT&T insiders who tested the devices". Those who agreed to their demands received batches of worldwide mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers, which they unlocked in return for money.
According to the indictment, Fahd paid his conspirators tens of thousands of dollars to unlock phones and recruit others into the ring. This story serves as a reminder of the serious threat companies face from malicious insiders.
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Fahd was arrested in Hong Kong in February 2018, and extradited to the United States on August 2, last week.
"Fahd is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to violate the Travel Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, four counts of wire fraud, two counts of accessing a protected computer in furtherance of fraud, two counts of intentional damage to a protected computer, and four counts of violating the Travel Act", the DOJ statement added. Fahd is facing a maximum of 20 years behind bars if found guilty.
The ultimate objective, the court documents reveal, was to sell the illegal software to the public, so that they could switch to a different network of their choice and deprive AT&T of the payments owed as per the contract terms. Forbes reports that Fahd would take payments from customers who were looking to unlock their phones and leave AT&T's network.
The DOJ estimates that, in total, his actions cost AT&T millions of dollars in lost revenue as phones were transferred off its network.
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As per the indictment, between April 2012 to April 2013, they gave instructions to AT&T's insiders with the help of wires in interstate and foreign commerce.
The duo ran three companies named Endless Trading FZE, Endless Connections Inc., and iDevelopment. AT&T uncovered the malware and the rogue employees who installed it in October 2013.
"This defendant 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 for the Western District of Washington Brian T. Moran said in an August 5 statement. "The unlocking malware used valid AT&T network credentials that belonged to co-conspirators and others, without authorization, to interact with AT&T's internal protected computer network and process automated unauthorized unlock requests submitted from an external server".
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