AT&T has sued three of its employees who allegedly installed malware that allowed them to illegally unlock mobile devices remotely.
According to a report from Ars Technica, three former AT&T employees will face a lawsuit after allegedly installing malware on the company’s computer systems that would allow them to illegally unlock hundreds of thousands of smartphones.
Unlocking a phone grants it the ability to connect with any compatible network from any carrier. Consumers can legally unlock their own phones or pay to have it done, but it is typically not allowed for a provider to unlock phones.
AT&T is known for its strict unlocking policies, and filed a complaint last week in the U.S. District Court in Seattle, WA. The company explained that its phone locking software is essential because it offers protection for AT&T’s long-term contract model.
According to AT&T, a company called Swift Unlocks paired up with employees Marc Sapatin, Nguyen Lam, and Kyra Evans as they worked at an AT&T call center in Washington State in 2013.
Swift Unlocks operator Prashant Vira allegedly paid Evans at least $20,000 to place and execute the malware programs on the company’s protected computer systems to unlock customers’ phones. The company also alleges that Sapatin was paid at least $10,500 for his involvement.
The malware allowed unauthorized server access and used valid PINs for customer service personnel to carry out automated unlocks without the company’s authorization.
Why would the three charged, along with 50 other unnamed defendants, want to do this? Unlocked phones can fetch a pretty price on open markets, and it is likely that employees were looking for the opportunity to earn some extra cash by selling the devices.