AT&T Mobility reports breach involving service provider employees

So apparently it’s not enough that I read and think about gadzillions of breach notification letters. I’m supposed to actually report on them, too, huh? It seems I was so underwhelmed by an AT&T Mobility breach that I never reported on it here,  even though mainstream media found it really newsworthy, with some even going so far as to suggest that AT&T brought the attack on themselves by its heavy-handed approach to unlocking phones.

To get you all caught up, since I’ve been nudged by a reader to do so: AT&T Mobility disclosed that three employees of an unnamed third-party service provider accessed some customer information during a two-week period in April.  The information included date of birth, Social Security and Customer Proprietary Network Information (which includes the type of information you’d find on your phone bill, like call records). 

The wrongdoers’ goal, AT&T says, was to request codes to unlock phones in the secondary mobile phone market so that those phones could be used with other telecoms.

Those affected were offered free credit monitoring for one year.

AT&T has been coy (translation: non-transparent) about disclosing how many customers were affected, or the name of the third-party provider. Nor have they explained why the third-party provider needed access to customer Social Security numbers.

So why didn’t I tell you about this at the time,  you ask? Well, it’s really nothing new. In 2012,  they disclosed that employees of an unnamed service provider had improperly accessed some customers’ accounts and misused the information. And I recently noted a 22-count indictment against 8 defendants for stealing AT&T customer data  and using the information to make unauthorized wire transfers from the victims’ bank accounts and obtain unauthorized credit or debit cards. One of the defendants was an employee of Interactive Response Technologies, lnc., who provides call center services for AT&T.

So what’s new here? Just that the goal was to unlock phones on the secondary market? Isn’t the real issue that employees of a service provider that they won’t name had access to your Social Security numbers and metadata that could reveal personal information or be misused for other purposes?  AT&T has a lot of service providers, I would imagine.  Who runs the criminal background checks on their employees? The service providers? AT&T?  What can – and will – AT&T do to prevent more of these types of breaches?  How protected are your SSN and why can’t we get Congress to outlaw the use of SSNs for commercial purposes?



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