In Germany, simlocks for smartphones are a dark memory. In the USA, however, many providers still lock their customers in their own network. That made an unscrupulous employee rich. Now he faces imprisonment.

The big question was when you inherited a used cell phone from the family or bought it from platforms like Ebay: Does it even work in my network? While German providers have long since dispensed with restrictions on individual networks or even SIM cards, this problem has persisted in the USA for much longer. An employee of the US provider T-Mobile apparently earned millions with it.

This emerges from a verdict issued by the US Department of Justice. Argishti K. was found guilty of offering provider block removal as a service. And on a grand scale: He is said to have unlocked “hundreds of thousands of cell phones” between 2014 and 2019. The 44-year-old’s fate is now that he wasn’t allowed to do it. And stole the tools to do it too.

Not just a little bit illegal

K. got the access to unlock the devices using classic hacking methods: Using fake e-mails, he got helpdesk employees from T-Mobile and other providers to reset their password on a website he controlled – and thus gained access on their accounts. In some cases he is said to have successfully posed as a high-ranking employee on hotlines in order to get access. In total, he is said to have hijacked over 50 support accounts in this way.

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K. and a temporary partner who was also convicted apparently found his customers through e-mail advertising and external intermediaries, many customers thought it was an official offer from the company. But that didn’t seem to be enough for the duo in the long run: in 2017, the two had operated a T-Mobile shop for a few months, but they also offered their “service” there without any approval from the company. But that was noticed at some point: Because of “suspicious computer use”, the company withdrew the license from the shop after a short time. After that, they just carried on as before.

The court argued that this had damaged the company in several ways. On the one hand, there were no fees for activating the devices, and with the change before the end of the contract, income was also lost through the use of their contract. In addition, K. is said to have unlocked devices that had been reported as lost or stolen and had therefore been blocked. This allowed them to be sold on the black market. It was all highly profitable for K.: He is said to have earned more than 25 million dollars over the course of five years, including buying land, expensive cars and other luxury goods, reports “Fortune”.

Long imprisonment threatened

Hard times are likely to come to K. now. He faces a long prison sentence after being convicted of 14 charges including fraud and money laundering. According to “Fortune”, he faces at least two years in prison for the allegation of identity theft alone, and in extreme cases 165 more years could be added to the other charges. The sentence is expected to be announced in October.

Sources: Verdict, Fortune