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AT&T employees allegedly accepted $1M in bribes to unlock millions of phones

Two men bribed AT&T employees with more than $1 million to plant malware and use the company’s own systems to unlock millions of AT&T phones, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Monday.

Authorities opened a case in March 2018 against Muhammad Fahd and Ghulam Jiwani. The DOJ alleged that the two men from Pakistan bribed AT&T employees with more than $1 million between April 2012 and September 2017, according to court documents. Fahd was extradited from Hong Kong to the U.S. on Aug. 2, while Jiwani is believed to be deceased.

Fahd and Jiwani’s access to the employees allowed them to “sell members of the public the results ability fraudulently to unlock phones, so that members of the public could stop using AT&T wireless services.” Essentially, the pair wanted to be able to unlock phones so that way they weren’t tied to a single mobile carrier, in this case AT&T, enabling anyone with any carrier to use the phones. 

Their objective was also to install and use malware that could gather “confidential and proprietary information on how AT&T’s computer network and software applications functioned,” the DOJ said. 

Fahd and Jiwani allegedly recruited AT&T employees at the company’s Bothell, Washington call center through private telephone conversations and Facebook messages. The pair would send the employees an identity number for a specific cell phone that was not eligible to be unlocked, and the employee would use their access to unlock it, officials said.

The pair were able to unlock more than two million devices, a majority of which were iPhones, and also gain access to protected computers within the AT&T network, authorities said.

“We have been working closely with law enforcement since this scheme was uncovered to bring these criminals to justice and are pleased with these developments,” an AT&T spokesperson told ZDNet. AT&T also added that no personal data was accessed as a result of the scheme.

The DOJ said in a press release that the duo bribed one AT&T employee with more than $428,500 between 2012 and 2017. AT&T is estimated to have lost $5 million in revenue because of the scheme. 

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran in a statement.  “Now he will be held accountable for the fraud and the lives he has derailed.”

Digital Trends has reached out to AT&T for comment about the case, but we have yet to receive a response. 

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