AT&T Lost 0 Million For Nearly A Decade By Illegal Phone Unlocking Scheme

The US law enforcement has recently convicted a man to 12 years in prison for illegally unlocking almost 2 million AT&T phones. And the condemned man has been identified and his name is Muhammad Fahd, a citizen of Pakistan and Grenada.

Muhammad Fahd has done this for nearly seven years, and not only this but he has also heard that there was an inquiry going against him.

The conspiracy

This illegal activity has started in the summer of 2012 when Fahd reached AT&T call center operatives in Bothell, Washington, USA. 

However, he has used Facebook as his primary medians of communication, the man assured them a large sum if they were allowed to unlock AT&T phones so they could be sold and can be utilized outside of the company’s network.

Bribes, malware, and rogue wireless access points

In the summer of 2012 and April 2013, Fahd selected AT&T employees as insiders, he has successfully bribed them with hundreds of thousands of dollars to exclude the carrier’s protection that secured cellular phones to its network.

But, from April 2013, the fraudster was obliged to hire a malware developer so that they can compose malicious tools after AT&T launched a new unlocking system that stopped corrupt employees from unlocking phones on behalf of the threat actors.

After that, it has been reported, that from November 2014 to September 2017, threat actor Fahd and several conspirators also approached AT&T employees to plant different hardware devices on the carrier’s internal network as it will help them to implement the operation.

The Scheme and execution

Muhammad Fahad has planned a scheme as well as an artifact to defraud, with the motive to obtain money as well as property. All this they are planning to do with false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and many more fraud schemes.

Moreover, AT&T’s forensic analysis confers the total number of cellular devices that got unlocked by members of the scheme was 1,900,033 phones. 

Furthermore, AT&T has concluded that the total loss it experienced because customers, whose cellular phones were illegally unlocked, deserted to complete payments for their smartphones was nearly $201,497,430.94.

Conspiracy counts

Here’s the list of full conspiracy counts:-

  • Conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
  • Conspiracy to Violate the Travel Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
  • Wire Fraud
  • Accessing a Protected Computer in Furtherance of Fraud.
  • International Damage to a Protected Computer.
  • Travel Act

After knowing about the ongoing investigation still continued unlocking phones

After knowing the details indicating the employees who have helped the threat actor is being fired by the company they continued their work. 

The company also claimed that they have officially fired the employees who have been bribed into illegally unlocking the phones and putting malware and malicious tools on its network.

While the US law enforcement concluded that the most important point is that this attack did not affect any improper access of customer information or any unfavorable effect on the customers.

However, Fahd was officially arrested in Hong Kong in February 2018 and later he was deported to the US in August 2019, and then he was sentenced to jail for 12 years.

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BALAJI is an Ex-Security Researcher (Threat Research Labs) at Comodo Cybersecurity. Editor-in-Chief & Co-Founder - Cyber Security News & GBHackers On Security.