Friday, June 14, 2024
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Manila says arrested hackers funded by Saudi group

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MANILA/BOSTON: Philippine police and the FBI have arrested four people over a hacking operation that targeted customers of US telecommunications giant AT&T to funnel money to a Saudi-based militant group.

Those arrested on Wednesday in Manila were paid by the same group the Federal Bureau of Investigation accuses of having funded the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, the Philippines’ Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said.

The hacking activity resulted in almost $2 million in losses incurred by AT&T, the CIDG said in a statement.

Police in the Philippines said money from the scams was diverted to accounts of a Saudi-based group that was not identified. India blames Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba for carrying out the attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer said hackers targeted customers of AT&T, not the carrier itself. She declined to give details, saying the agency does not discuss investigations.

Hackers broke into the phone systems of some AT&T customers and made calls to expensive international premium-rate services, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

Such scams are relatively common, often involving bogus premium-service phone lines set up across Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Fraudsters make calls to the numbers from hacked business phone systems or mobile phones then collect their cash and move on before the activity is identified. Telecommunications carriers often end up footing the bill for the charges.

Jan Rasmussen, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said it wrote off some fraudulent charges that appeared on customer bills. (Reuters)

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