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AT&T Customer Phone Hacking Tied To Terrorists

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the phoning-the-bad-guys dept.

AT&T 39

theodp writes "Have you ever hacked into AT&T customer accounts and diverted money to terrorism-financing groups? You will. In 2003, the NY Times reported that AT&T contended U.S. victims of a Philippines-based telephone hacking swindle were responsible for long-distance calls fraudulently made through their voice mail systems. At the time, the city of East Palo Alto was slapped with a $30,000 long-distance phone bill that resulted from voice-mail hacking. Fast forward to 2011, and the NY Times is reporting that a Philippines-based group hacked into the accounts of AT&T business customers in the U.S. and diverted money to an organization that financed terrorist attacks across Asia. But it's not quite deja-vu-all-over-again. While it'd make a better story if AT&T contended customers were responsible for the charges and any ensuing terrorism, AT&T reimbursed the victims of the hacking this time around."

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39 comments

First Post (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38181698)

Claimed for Allah! Die American pig-dogs!

Re:First Post (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38192132)

I'm sorry, you appear to be a bit confused.

Firstly, although they are (questionably) made largely of pork or beef, we call "pig-dogs" "hot dogs". Secondly, they are usually already dead unless you go to a specialty place like Lennie's Live Hot Dogs in Perth Amboy, NJ. Lastly, while they are not the highest quality of food, there's no real reason to be so angry at one of many staples of American cuisine.

So we bomb them now? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38181740)

That's how politicians get to office. To swear to fight terrorism. At least the Republican ones.

Who needs voicemail? (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38181758)

Months ago I received a text message, which billed me for $10. T-Mobile just let it through like it was completely legit. I had to spend over an hour with customer service before I got them to block all billing to my mobile phone account.

Talk about a security hole you could drive a truck through. How many other vermin are doing this and getting away with it?

Re:Who needs voicemail? (5, Funny)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#38181892)

"I had to spend over an hour with customer service before I got them to block all billing to my mobile phone account."

Could you tell us how you did it? No matter what I try, I keep getting a bill every month :-(

Re:Who needs voicemail? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38181898)

Talk about a security hole you could drive a truck through.

That's not a security hole - that's a feature [pcworld.com]. and of course T-Mobile has a history of this shit [consumerist.com]

See, the telecom industry is legally allowed and prefers to be able to charge for third party services because they get a HUGE commission. That's the reason why T-Mobile gave you a hard time because they were also making money on the fraudulent charges. And the way it works is that the crooks don't even need permission to it. They can slam the charges on your bill. And to add insult to injury, our phone bills are so goddamn complicated and with purposefully vague terms like "National service fees" or charges that are made to look like some sort of Federally mandated charge, it's very difficult to catch the bogus charges and therefore, most people pay for the crooks.

What we need is a regulation that makes third party billing on any telecom account illegal. The telecoms cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Self regulation my ass!

Re:Who needs voicemail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182974)

Thanks for the tip. I just called T-Mobile and had the "service" blocked. No charge, no hassle, took about five minutes.

One Solution... (3, Interesting)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183124)

Verizon tried this on my account numerous times(almost quarterly) from '04-'07. Despite my regular calls to remove fees and block all web content again and again and again, my account kept defaulting back to allow web access fees and espanol spam text fees(I even wrote the Arizona AG and the BBB to no avail). It all stopped miraculously when I decided to continue our arrangement 'off-contract' as I waited for Android. I have not had a single mis-charge since August of '07.
 
*Google & Verizon give me enough reasons to retain my e815 and stay off-contract. I would ditch VZW but they are no better/worse than any other options [msn.com], wireless or landline.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182024)

Big Brother Is Watching You.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (4, Insightful)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182126)

But seriously, whats up with US paying to receive calls in the home circle, and messages overall?

Re:Who needs voicemail? (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182296)

Trust me, if they ever did away with that they would find another way to overbill us, at least this way we can largely avoid it.

What pisses me off is that they charge people to receive text messages and the only way to opt out is to turn it off completely.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38183042)

While there are arguments against paying for inbound calls and texts, there is an argument for it which IMHO is overwhelmingly important: Calling a US mobile phone costs exactly as much as calling a land line. In other countries, calling a mobile phone is much more expensive because the caller also pays for the last leg of the call. There is hardly any incentive for the mobile phone user to choose a plan with a reasonable pricing for inbound calls.

Customers should have means to reject texts just like they can reject calls if they pay to receive them though.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183216)

Well, it SHOULD be the caller who pays for the entire call
Anyways, cant say for the rest of the world, but here in India, call rates are dirt cheap (someone below the poverty line can afford to purchase and use a mobile phone)
QoS is a different story though

Re:Who needs voicemail? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38184502)

While local rates should be still* somewhat higher with mobile - the latter typically offer the same rate throughout whole country, no matter where the called number is. With people becoming more mobile in general, that could very well have the affect of lower overall charges (well, quite likely really often higher in absolute terms, as far as I can tell - but that's largely because we keep in touch much more actively)
There was a problem with international rates for some time - but that is rapidly improving for a year or two (in the one place of many smallish countries I'm familiar with...), charges now becoming not much higher than country calling - and actually, it's not terribly hard to find offers which, in many cases (for some group of neighbouring countries, typically), already offer the same rates as mobile country calling (which BTW, yes, typically means they are less expensive than long-distance country land line rates).

Is this argument, that you mention, how telecom PR tries to convince you it's a good idea, tries to justify it? (plus, the one who initiates, who desires a conversation, should pay for it... )

* Honestly, I didn't care enough to compare for a long time. The monthly contract payment for - barely used - land line trumped any expected differences over half a decade ago already.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38184672)

Calling a US mobile phone costs exactly as much as calling a land line. In other countries, calling a mobile phone is much more expensive because the caller also pays for the last leg of the call

Only if you're calling from a landline. In the UK, for example, calls from mobiles are usually the same rate irrespective of whether they are calls to landlines or mobiles, although calls to the mobiles on the same network can be cheaper. It shifts the incentives to the point where I now know lots of people with no landline but no one without a mobile (the last person I knew without a mobile got one a couple of years back). The cheapest line rental on a landline per month is about I spend about as much on my mobile every 3-4 months.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38184966)

Certainly you see that that is the expected outcome if the recipient doesn't pay for incoming calls, don't you? As more people have mobile phones, someone with a land line doesn't get the benefit of low per-minute charges when calling them, but pays the high fixed cost of the land line. The mobile phone users on the other hand save on the fixed costs and only "overpay" when calling land lines, which are on the decline. If the mobile phone users always had to pay for their leg of the call, then land line users could offset their high fixed cost with the low (often zero) per minute charges.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38189472)

Yes, that's my point. The pricing model in the USA makes switching to mobile only more difficult because it skews the pricing in favour of landlines. The pricing model elsewhere skews the pricing in favour of mobile phones. This reached a tipping point in the UK a few years ago where it was cheaper to have a mobile than a landline for most people. For light to moderate users, a pre-pay mobile has no line rental and the cost of calls is less than the cost of a line rental. For heavy users, a mobile contract with inclusive minutes is often cheaper than a landline - especially since inclusive minutes deals from landlines don't usually include calls to mobiles.

If you're in the UK and have a mobile and a landline, you'll give out the mobile number because it's more useful. If you're in the USA, you'll give out the landline number because it costs you less. This means that the mobile networks reach the critical mass required for economies of scale in the UK a lot faster.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38185458)

We don't. Pretty much all calls incoming/outgoing are free under any decent plan.
I think i currently use about 10 minutes a month. You have to go out of your way to use minutes now a days because everything seems to be free. The only time i use minutes is calling a land line during the day

Re:Who needs voicemail? (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 2 years ago | (#38184854)

I had to spend over an hour with customer service before I got them to block all billing to my mobile phone account.

My experience with T-mobile is totally different. Never a dispute with billing. They usually waive if there was any issue. Last time I was in Niagara Falls, the phone picked up some Canadian telcom roaming and slammed me with some $18 worth of excess charges. Called them, and they waived it without any questions.

Within one month I got a text saying I was over my data limit. Called them and told them, "I have an android, but I don't have a data plan, I don't want a data plan, I have never paid any data charges, why there is this new charge, how they can block internet on my phone".

They said if I was on Wi-fi connection at home, and move away from home without closing the apps and the browser the connection would automatically switch to 3G network. They confirmed they have a data-block request already on file. The tech re-enabled the block to disable this auto switch facility. To avoid getting a larger bill (at that time I had $42 in data charges) and then fighting the billing department, he also gave me one month "free internet trial offer". That way the monthly bill would be normal.

Within two months two calls and got some $60 reversed. May be your mileage varies.

I also like their attempts to move away from subsidized handset business model. They seem to realize the subsidized handsets and two year upgrade treadmill is a loser's game for the smaller carriers.

Re:Who needs voicemail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38190754)

Details on Privacy Log

Security hole in SMS spam websites allows charges to be made to arbitrary mobile numbers

http://privacylog.blogspot.com/2009/01/security-hole-in-sms-spam-websites.html

Of all places, EPA? (3, Funny)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38181822)

If you're looking to swindle money from people, EPA (East Palo Alto) isn't such a great place to start. You'd be much better off looking west over the freeway. That's where all the money is.... but I guess if you're a hacker living in the Philippines you wouldn't know that.

Re:Of all places, EPA? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38181890)

People with money generally know how to keep it, or they wouldn't have it. Scammers target the inept who don't know how to defend themselves (and who society will quickly believe brought it onto themselves). Rich people call the police. Poor people don't, because they (correctly) expect calling the police to get them into more trouble.

Better Story? (2)

adamchou (993073) | more than 2 years ago | (#38181920)

While it'd make a better story if AT&T contended customers were responsible for the charges and any ensuing terrorism, AT&T reimbursed the victims of the hacking this time around.

How would that have been better?! That would have just been more upsetting. I'm glad that the customers got reimbursed and that AT&T did the right thing. Maybe this is a sign of a change (I know, wishful thinking)

Re:Better Story? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38181970)

It's apparently an attempt at humor. Notice the claim that we will do the hacking, too.

Re:Better Story? (2)

Calydor (739835) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182290)

It would not be better, no, but it would be a better STORY.

Come on, be honest. Which story do you remember most, the story that something went wrong and was fixed, or that something went wrong and the company responsible started pointing fingers at everyone but themselves?

Not surprising (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38182118)

Terrorists have been raiding computers for a long time. They use the nice back doors provided by MS. So, the next time that you appear to be missing 10-20% of your retirement fund, do not blame the management company so quickly. It is possible that terrorists got into either your client, or a client at the management company and then stole for quite some time.

Personally, I am amazed that they are not bright enough to grab slowly from stock market companies. Hell, they can even short a company and then make statements about hitting those companies, or simply do so. Upon the drop, they then pull out.

Or, they could just have fun with you.. (4, Interesting)

dohnut (189348) | more than 2 years ago | (#38182774)

I worked at a small (~120 employees) engineering company in the Midwest. Our building was in a new industrial park on the outskirts of a small metropolitan area. I can't remember the exact date this happened but it would have been near 2000.

Apparently someone from California (well, that is where the call came from) was hacking PBXs and he got into ours (which had no security in place -- no, I wasn't IT). Instead of milking it for free calls he (I'm assuming a male) decided to call in a prank office shooting. He called 911 from our system and told the dispatcher that someone or some group were in the building shooting people. He even played clips of screaming and gunshots in the background.

Needless to say, the entire police force showed up to our industrial park. One officer was in such a hurry that his "brakes went out" when he tried to corner and instead ended up in the glass-enclosed display area of a nearby home remodeling outfit.

The police observed the building for a while (we had a large, open 2 story glassed-in reception area) and noticed that everything seemed normal. The sent an officer up in full swat gear to the door and the receptionist was quite surprised to see him. Eventually, they figured out that there were no shooters and that someone outside of the building had made the call.

Of course, I was told all of this after the fact as I was in my cubicle with headphones on and didn't know any of this had happened.

Not sure if they ever caught the people responsible but it is a good story.

Who hasn't? (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183184)

Have you ever hacked into AT&T customer accounts and diverted money to terrorism-financing groups?

Of course, hasn't everybody?

Re:Who hasn't? (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38183598)

I haven't, but according to the summary, I suppose it's only a matter of time. I never knew I had it in me.

Re:Who hasn't? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38186344)

Have you ever hacked into AT&T customer accounts and diverted money to terrorism-financing groups?

Of course, hasn't everybody?

http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/06/29/1840241/hack-att-voicemail-with-android

call centers in the philippians (1)

renegade600 (204461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38184526)

and to think I was just reading about the number of call centers in the philippians recently bypass the number in india. Will they be passing our personal financial information on to terrorists??? I mean at$t is using call centers in the philippians. That to me is scarey, especially after the recent attack from there.

"More Filipinos - about 400,000 - than Indians now spend their nights talking to mostly American consumers, industry officials said, as companies like AT&T, JPMorgan Chase and Expedia have hired call centres here, or built their own. The jobs have come from the United States, Europe and, to some extent, India as outsourcers followed their clients to the Philippines."

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/Philippines-beats-India-in-call-centre-agents/articleshow/10898864.cms [indiatimes.com]

lets reconsider this (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 2 years ago | (#38184870)

Have you ever hacked into AT&T customer accounts and diverted money to terrorism-financing?

not sure its even required. being the largest telecommunications conglomerate on the planet, i already pay for its service. the funds
i give it allow AT&T to provide warrantless wiretaps and direct communications surveillance services to the US government. The US Government is an agency that has
financed the taliban in the past, as well as overthrew the shah of iran in 1953. They construct secret prisons [wikipedia.org]
, torture the innocent, and bomb peaceful works projects in other countries [wikipedia.org]

this story is really only shocking for americans. for the rest of the world, its par for the course.

Re:lets reconsider this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38187996)

- 'torture the innocent' -[citation needed]

- 'bomb peaceful works projects in other countries' - perhaps you could use a Wikipedia link pointing to an actual event instead of an incident of alleged sabotage of a Soviet pipeline that a former KGB operative claimed was caused by crappy construction as opposed to said sabotage. In other words, [citation needed].

Funny how everyone is against the T-Mobile merger. (1)

Mister Xiado (1606605) | more than 2 years ago | (#38186714)

...but AT&T would be shutting down all of the call centers for AT&T and T-Mobile in the Philippines upon completion of the merger. Also if you've ever talked to somebody who sounded like they picked up English on a bus ride to their Farsi classes, you probably talked to somebody in the Philippines.

Criminals steal money... (1)

chrismcb (983081) | more than 2 years ago | (#38186984)

So the gist of the story is "criminals steal money for criminalist activities?"

Of course it sounds better if you replace "criminals" with "terrorist."

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