"Muhammad Fahd provided the hardware devices to co-conspirators, including current and former AT&T insiders who tested the devices".
U.S. attorney Brian Moran said: "This defendant thought he could safely run his bribery and hacking scheme from overseas, making millions of dollars while he induced young workers to choose greed over ethical conduct".
The U.S. Department of Justice said that people would pay Fahd to have their devices unlocked and transferred off AT&T's network.
When those telco workers took too long to cough up the codes, the crew bought copies of the employees' work login credentials and used them to go straight into the cellular giant's systems and directly request the codes themselves, it is claimed.
Around October 2013, AT&T discovered the malware and identified several insiders who were operating the unlocking malware at Fahd's direction; those insiders subsequently left AT&T after being approached by AT&T investigators.
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That's when Fahd changed tactics and bribed AT&T employees to install malware on AT&T's network at the Bothell call center. Various co-conspirators have been working with the police after pleading guilty. The employees would then unlock the phones.
According to the U.S Attorney's Office from the Western District of Washington, Fahd is accused of orchestrating a scheme in which he paid AT&T employees to prematurely unlock phones that were tied to AT&T's network so that the owners of those phones could use their devices on other carriers. These devices helped Fahd with gaining access to AT&T internal apps and network, and continue the rogue phone unlocking scheme. Eventually, after some of the employees who worked with Fahd were fired, he allegedly persuaded some remaining co-conspirators to develop and install malware in the company's system that would allow him to remotely unlock phones.
The DOJ said the two operated three companies named Endless Trading FZE, Endless Connections Inc., and iDevelopment. AT&T used proprietary locking software, preventing the hardware from being used on another carrier while it was still under contract to the company, something which Fahd sought to disable on devices. For some email communications, Fahd used the email@example.com address, suggesting the latter scenario.
Fahd was arrested in Hong Kong last February but was only recently extradited to the U.S. He now faces a litany of charges that may send him behind bars for up to 20 years.
The DOJ says that now, three former AT&T employees have pleaded guilty to assisting Fahd in his scheme, while Fahd faces a laundry list of charges including four counts of wire fraud, two counts of accessing a protected computer in furtherance of fraud, two counts of worldwide damage to a protected computer, four counts of violating the Travel Act, and more.