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AT&T Employees Installed Malware on Their PCs to Aid Phone Unlocking Service

Telecom giant AT&T has accused three former employees of fraudulently installing malware on the company’s computers and using it to illegally unlock “hundreds of thousands” of cell phones. The Swift Unlocks team then apparently ran a program that generated the unlock codes using the service reps’ credentials. But carriers are not obligated to unlock them except in certain circumstances, such as when customers have paid off their contracts or device financing plans. Sapatin and Evans would be paid at least $10,000 by the company between April and October of 2013, according to Prashant Vira, who operates Swift Unlocks, so long as they agreed to install a remote access tool, which would allow Swift Unlocks to instantaneously have access to any unlock code.

“Locking” phones into a single carrier allows service providers like Verizon, AT&T or Sprint to guarantee that their customers will stay for the duration of their contract (or at least force them to pay off the cost of the phone if they should break said contract). An AT&T spokesperson tells GeekWire there was no improper access to private customer information. We have sent a message to Swift Unlocks about the case, but haven’t heard back yet.

The carrier, the nation’s second largest, says the defendants created a software program that allowed an external server to issue unlock permissions to AT&T phones.

The defendants have not yet filed a response with the court. These workers have already been let go from AT&T and now the carrier has filed a lawsuit believing that select former employees were involved in handling a malware virus within their company computers. A group of unnamed defendants developed the malware, according to AT&T. The company has taken legal action against Swift Unlocks and three former AT&T employees for a six-month scheme that allegedly saw hundreds of thousands of unlocking codes funneled out of company computers.

For his part, Lam was not given financial compensation, though AT&T alleges he installed malware on AT&T computers.

The AT&T’s complaint quotes Sapatin as saying “that there were many people across the country participating in the Unlock Scheme and others like it against different wireless carriers”.

No one accused in the suit still works for AT&T, but was still alive as of Friday morning.

Sapatin allegedly tried to recruit other AT&T employees, telling one “that she would make $2,000 every two weeks through her participation in the Unlock Scheme”, AT&T wrote.

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