For several years AT&T employees were bribed to unlock subsidised smartphones so they could then be resold.

The corruption lasted for at least five years from 2012 and has only come to light thanks to court documents being recently unsealed. ZDNet was the first on the scene and it reports that a couple of baddies called Muhammad Fahd and Ghulam Jiwani were charged by the US DoJ with shelling out more that a million bucks in bribes to AT&T employees in order to get them to unlock phones identified by specific IMEI codes.

Apparently this direct approach was soon uncovered by AT&T, which fired those involved, so the defendants then switched to a more indirect approach. They bribed a new lot of AT&T employees to install malware on the network, which they then used to acquire credentials that allowed them to unlock phones directly themselves. Apparently one AT&T employee alone trousered over $400,000 from all this naughtiness.

It’s not clear exactly how the baddies profited from unlocking all these phones but a couple of methods are suggested. One is that they simply ran an unlocking service for other people and another is that they effectively stole the subsidised phones by unlocking them and then bailing on the postpaid contracts that doubled as hire purchase agreements.

It should be noted that there is no suggestion that any of this corruption of AT&T employees involved access to customer data and it certainly seems to have come to a stop now.


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