Millions of phones were unlocked thanks to alleged bribes taken by AT&T employees to infect the mobile network with malware, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has said. Unauthorized hardware is also alleged to have been installed on the network, court documents unsealed Monday showed.
According to CNET sister site ZDNet, a case was opened against Muhammad Fahd, a 34-year-old man from Pakistan, and Ghulam Jiwani, who is believed to be deceased. Fahd was arrested in Hong Kong in February and was extradited to the US over the weekend.
“Fahd recruited and paid AT&T insiders to use their computer credentials and access to disable AT&T’s proprietary locking software that prevented ineligible phones from being removed from AT&T’s network,” the Justice Department alleges. “The scheme resulted in millions of phones being removed from AT&T service and/or payment plans, costing the company millions of dollars.”
The DOJ alleges employees at the Bothell, Washington, call center were bribed between April 2012 and September 2017. At first, they were allegedly bribed to unlock Apple iPhones to be used on other networks. They were contacted through Facebook messages or by phone calls, given lists of IMEI phone codes and unlocked those for money, DOJ is alleging.
Other employees were allegedly bribed to supply the names of others who would take part in the scheme. Three co-conspirators have pleaded guilty so far, admitting to receiving thousands of dollars in bribes.
One employee was allegedly bribed with more than $428,500 during the five-year period, with AT&T estimating a loss of revenue of over $5 million per year, ZDNet reported.
AT&T didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.