Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
AT&T Security

AT&T Says Customer Data Accessed To Unlock Smartphones 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the another-day-another-breach dept.
itwbennett writes: Personal information, including Social Security numbers and call records, was accessed for an unknown number of AT&T Mobility customers by people outside of the company, AT&T has confirmed. The breach took place between April 9-21, but was only disclosed this week in a filing with California regulators. While AT&T wouldn't say how many customers were affected, state law requires such disclosures if an incident affects at least 500 customers in California.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

AT&T Says Customer Data Accessed To Unlock Smartphones

Comments Filter:
  • Not doing it right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sinij (911942) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:35AM (#47229283) Journal
    Why would anyone give SSN to AT&T? Do they also process your taxes? If not, they have no place asking or retaining this information.
    • by wbr1 (2538558)
      Even though it is not recommended, many, many organizations use the SSN as a unique identifier. See http://consumersunion.org/news... [consumersunion.org]
      • Here's a novel Idea. Lets us the SSN as a unique identifier AFTER you have verified that that person is actually who they say they are. Do not use it for Authentication or Identification for authentication purposes, nor for any other purpose other than taxes.

        But that is exactly what was promised when the SS system was first proposed, but we all know how that worked out. Government lies.

      • Even though it is not recommended, many, many organizations use the SSN as a unique identifier. See http://consumersunion.org/news... [consumersunion.org]

        Technically not legal; but doesn't stop them.

        Technically - you can only use your SSN with the IRS for tax purposes; but that doesn't stop anyone.

        • by thejynxed (831517)

          Hell, it doesn't even stop government agencies OTHER than the IRS requiring you to use it on all kinds of forms and applications, either.

    • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:39AM (#47229315)
      Credit checks for post-paid accounts.
      • by Virtucon (127420) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:52AM (#47229427)

        Yeah everybody want's your SSN and here's the trick folks, don't give it to them unless you absolutely have to. I'm finding it harder and harder these days to start to trust any companies with sensitive information like this. What's needed is an abstract number like a disposable e-mail address to start protecting our anonymity. Once it's used to verify if the customer is "sponge-worthy" [urbandictionary.com] it disappears and the requester can't use it again.

        I recently bought a new car at the same dealership where I'd previously purchased another one, about 5 years ago, and when going through all the paperwork found that they had my SSN and other financial data on file from the last time from that transaction. Needless to say I went ballistic and asked a few WTF questions of the management. They agreed that after the transaction was concluded that those details would be erased. I've since filed a complaint with the state attorney general, the state consumer affairs and the feds because none of this was disclosed 5 years ago and I don't know who has seen this data or my SSN.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Also file a BBB complaint and write a letter - snail mail - to the credit bureau(s) they pulled the report from and let them know that it was done without your permission or knowledge. Let them know those sacks of shit are acting unethically and possibly against the terms of their subscription with the credit bureaus.

        • by Detonia (3694291)

          What's needed is an abstract number like a disposable e-mail address to start protecting our anonymity. Once it's used to verify if the customer is "sponge-worthy" [urbandictionary.com] it disappears and the requester can't use it again.

          http://10minutemail.com/10Minu... [10minutemail.com]

      • I know that is often used as the "excuse" but you don't actually need a SSN to run a credit-check. Name and address are enough, which is why e.g. a landlord can avoid sounding too obtrusive by not asking for the applicant's SSN - they can get the credit report just fine with the name and previous address.
        • Without an SSN you need a DOB. At least that's the case for all the credit checks I've run at mutliple companies over the past 20 years.

          • by Anonymous Coward
            Not true. I can confirm that for example Experian tenant check only asks you for the name and address, yet the report contains the SSN (and DOB)! Other less known agencies offer similar services.
          • by Ecuador (740021)
            Sorry, but you are wrong. The AC mentioned Experian, so I guess this is a quick example: http://www.experian.com/screening-services/tenant-credit-check.html [experian.com] Only name and address needed (and annual income if you want them to make a decision for you, but not for the credit check). But you could also ask the hordes of people who are surprised when they find out their car dealer ran their credit with only their name and address (hint: if they never gave permission they can pursue the FCRA violation).
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You do not need to give an SSN to AT&T, however this is not largely advertised because they make more money on contracts and collections recovery ($100 deposit vs up to $300 for collections recovery). Just like car dealers do not advertise you can talk down the price, AT&T is in business to make money. Remember that whenever you begin to ask the question "Why would anyone give their SSN to ......"

      • by Anonymous Coward
        And they do not have to provide you with mobile phone service, either. At my business the SSN is used as a uniquely identifying field for each customer and is integrated into the billing process. We make sure that the SSN number does not appear in its entirety on any mailed documents but it is retained in our system to ensure the customer does not have credit problems that could impact ability to pay (we run soft credit checks on a regular basis on all customers). Anyone that refuses to provide a valid S
        • by sinij (911942) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:58AM (#47229475) Journal
          >>> Anyone that refuses to provide a valid SSN is rejected from our services. Your business is clearly contributing to the problem and should be held full liable for any damage resulting from the data breach that you will inevitably experience at some point.

          As to database designers that don't self generate uidis and instead use SSN...

          Still, there are ways around such obnoxious requests. my SSN is 123-4-5678.
        • by Stan92057 (737634)
          And what service is that?? What company as well
    • Why would anyone give SSN to AT&T? Do they also process your taxes? If not, they have no place asking or retaining this information.

      Why?.... the DHS and friends have increased the information disclosure for cell phones as well as banking records....

      Companies are more and more compelled to dig into you life and keep and make available to "enforcement"
      on demands more and more information.

      We do have rather well structured standards for the management of credit card info (PCI Compliance Security Standards) but
      do not have equivalent standards for the information that others must gather. The good(ish) laws on disclosure are making it
      evide

    • Credit check. A company choosing to keep it AFTER the fact is folly, unless your a banker extending credit and you need to periodically re-run credit.

    • by mstockman (188945)

      Why would anyone give SSN to AT&T? Do they also process your taxes? If not, they have no place asking or retaining this information.

      When I first got my iPhone, the Apple Store reps could not figure out how (or wouldn't admit to knowing how) to sell an AT&T contract without a social security number. They sent me down the way to the AT&T store who also couldn't figure it out without calling in to a customer service line and escalating to a supervisor. It took over two hours to buy the damn phone without a SS#, but would have been five minutes if I had given it up. Eventually, they admitted that they have a placeholder number they

      • by sinij (911942)
        Human irrationality.

        Would you give AT&T signed blank check if they promised they would keep it for you "for security purposes"? Most people would hesitate to do so, but having one of your checks compromised is a lot less damaging that having your identity stolen via SSN compromise.
    • by thejynxed (831517)

      It's surprising they are even following the bare minimum. Back in the dinosaur era of the 90's, when I worked for them (briefly), they got around most of such laws with impunity simply by changing where they stored customer databases.

      If there was anything I ever picked up from my time at AT&T, it was that they are masters of shady law avoidance practices.

  • SSNs? Oh fudge.

    It would be nice to get more details about this than what's available in TFA. Was this only accounts in California, etc?

    • No, but AT&T is following the bare minimum of the letter of the law in California. I would assume it's a much wider problem.
  • Hmmm ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday June 13, 2014 @09:38AM (#47229303) Homepage

    "We recently learned that three employees of one of our vendors accessed some AT&T customer accounts without proper authorization," the company said in a statement.

    "This is completely counter to the way we require our vendors to conduct business."

    So, if this is completely counter to how you require it, and they didn't have authorization ... why the hell is it set up so they can access it without proper authorization???

    If the access is set up to say "do you promise to not log in when you're not supposed to?" then the system is pretty much useless.

    • by Calydor (739835)

      Because at some point the red tape would become counter to conducting business.

      If one of these employees is the store manager or even regional manager, why WOULDN'T he have the authorization to grant access? Would they need to call the AT&T HQ every time they need to look up a record to have access granted from within?

    • ... by adding a "pinky swear" checkbox.
  • by BobMcD (601576)

    So AT&T seems pretty confident that the 'breach' was inappropriate use of data that a partner of theirs had access to already. It isn't as if some unknown nefarious party hacked them for unknown malicious reasons.

    Dude queried tables they didn't think he had access to, and seemingly while doing his job.

    In other words, daily IT stuff.

    I'm not opposed to the report, per se, but the summary borders on sensationalism.

    • "Employees of one of our service providers violated our strict privacy and security guidelines by accessing your account without authorization," the company said in a letter to affected customers. "AT&T believes the employees accessed your account as part of an effort to request codes from AT&T than are used to unlock AT&T mobile phones in the secondary mobile phone market."

      You're right. People don't realize just how much regulation Telecoms and Cellular providers are under. They've got a security policy, and a vendor violated it during a routine part of their job. Likely this was just some guy that wrote a query as "Select * from accounts" instead of "Select ID, Phone, address from accounts" like he should of. AT&Ts security policy required a report on it or whatever. I saw a guy I worked with get fired for a similar mistake.

      Careful with your Queries folks... even while t

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Likely this was just some guy that wrote a query as "Select * from accounts" instead of "Select ID, Phone, address from accounts" like he should of.

        Sorry, what? If your outside vendors have the ability to do a raw select on your database ... you're doing it wrong.

        These people should be coming in from an interface which only allows them to access what they're required to access, and absolutely NOTHING else.

        And your SSN should NOT be included in that.

        Hell, as a matter of security when someone asks us for rea

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          Clearly they're doing it wrong, thus the report.

          But is this alarming enough to be news?

          I'm pretty confident YOUR BANK is doing it wrong as well, in terms of vendor relations. And those are your actual dollars.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            But is this alarming enough to be news?

            That they're that incompetent at designing a secure system? Yeah.

            I'm pretty confident YOUR BANK is doing it wrong as well

            I'm pretty sure I live in a different country than you, and we have much stricter banking laws.

            • by BobMcD (601576)

              Perhaps I've worked with international banking websites as a vendor.

              But the point still stands. This happens a lot, and you don't necessarily need to know about it.

              • by gstoddart (321705)

                This happens a lot, and you don't necessarily need to know about it.

                Unless there's a law requiring it. In this case, there was.

                Me, I think corporations should be required to tell people about such breaches.

                Because then maybe they'd learn to stop the breaches instead of pretending they never happened.

                • by BobMcD (601576)

                  More likely you'd set up your spam filter to squelch all the notifications.

                  Again, incidental contact happens billions of times in a given day worldwide. Most laws don't require reporting it. HIPAA, for example, specifically permits it as a part of doing business.

    • by alen (225700)

      i bet it was someone trying to unlock a phone that wasn't supposed to be unlocked
      AT&T cracked down on third parties selling iphone unlocks and someone was probably trying to figure out how to do it again

      • by Karlt1 (231423)

        i bet it was someone trying to unlock a phone that wasn't supposed to be unlocked
        AT&T cracked down on third parties selling iphone unlocks and someone was probably trying to figure out how to do it again

        Why would you need to go to a third party? They have a simple form on their website that you fill out and they will unlock it for you as long as you fulfilled your contract. I requested an iPhone to be unlocked two years after I left the service and the turnaround was less than 3 days. Verizon on the o

  • We received what we thought was a request for data from the NSA on April 9th. We happily complied and began sending the data. We were shocked when the REAL NSA called on April 21st requesting the same data. Naturally we gave them the data and stopped sending it to #Fake NSA.
    • by PPH (736903)

      That National Security Letterhead really seems to be making the rounds with the scammers. That, a fake ID and a pair of cheap dark glasses and anyone thinks they can just shove their way into your business.

  • I get 4 to 5 calls a day from an automated scammer trying to get me to "claim my $200 AT&T bill credit" by logging into a fake AT&T site using all kinds of sensitive personal information.

    The scammers take that information and use it to buy phones and plans under the victim's account and ship them overseas where they can be used by whoever.

  • I constantly get statements from ATT saying "we have deducted this money from your bank account" I have been getting them for two years, at least.

    ATT tells me it is a glitch in their system, and not to worry about it.

    So far, no money has been wrong deducted, that I am aware of.

    However, I do not consider this to be confidence inspiring.

    • I constantly get statements from ATT saying "we have deducted this money from your bank account" I have been getting them for two years, at least.

      ATT tells me it is a glitch in their system, and not to worry about it.

      So far, no money has been wrong deducted, that I am aware of.

      However, I do not consider this to be confidence inspiring.

      Meanwhile, some other sucker is getting money deducted without an explanation.

  • by JStyle (833234)

    I thought the NSA was doing this for a while already.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." - Bert Lantz

Working...