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AT&T Phones Hack Facebook Accounts

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On January 16th the Associated Press released an exclusive report on a glitch in the AT&T network routing infrastructure that sent users straight into the Facebook accounts of total strangers. Three women in Georgia reported that when they used their cell phones to visit Facebook they found themselves in other user's accounts. Without ever being prompted for a username or password they had complete control of the accounts and all of the user's personal information.

The Associated Press article suggested problems within the AT&T network infrastructure as the culprit. AT&T admitted to a "limited number" of these incidents, but said the problem is being fixed. However, this particular glitch is not just a simple fix according to security experts, nor is it a problem that's likely exclusive to AT&T or Facebook.

According to experts, the problem is due to cookies, those little information packets that are stored on both the device and the Web site to identify users. Apparently cookies on the AT&T network were being routed to the wrong phones, so when the phone's Internet browser landed on the Facebook page, the site recognized the cookie and immediately opened the account without prompting for a log-in. AT&T said it doesn't know how the cookies were misdirected and that, because two of the women had logged out of the accounts prior to investigation, they could only verify one of the incidents.

These women weren't the only ones reporting this problem. A man in Vancouver, WA went to Facebook last November and landed in the account of a young woman, he found her email address and sent her a message. Not only did they find that they had never met, but that she had gotten logged into his account as well. And they were both using AT&T phones to access their Facebook accounts.

AT&T isn't responding about incidents that weren't directly reported to them and Facebook is directing all questions back to AT&T. That's not surprising considering that AT&T is in the middle of an on-going war with Verizon. That's big news. This story is just a small blip in comparison and most media outlets aren't reporting it…yet. The Atlanta Journal Constitution finally picked the story up on January 19th. A little late considering that it's a national story involving local residents, but Gay Atlanta has far more pressing concerns right now.

And Facebook has had a lucrative, yet volatile year. They've had to deal with the koobface virus, highly publicized incidents, from hacking to privacy complaints, users losing jobs and health benefits due to their own stupidity when posting their off-hour shenanigans, complaints about their bosses, even Bill Gates threw his hands in the air and announced that he was out of there due to the thousands of friend requests he had coming in from people he didn't know. Not to worry. He's back now. No one knows why, but I suspect it would be difficult to pass up the opportunity to annoy Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak by out-friending them.

Facebook has opened up a whole new world for many of us. People who didn't even own a computer six months ago are now plugged-in and logged-on. It's a site that makes us feel like we're wrapped in the virtual bosom of a loving Ethernet family. It has allowed us to re-invent ourselves. Re-write the past. Him: no longer the kid with food stuck in his braces but a high-powered CEO or a successful entrepreneur. Her: not "big boned" anymore, she's a hardcore marathon runner who posts ten times a day about what she's cooking for the high-carb diet she's forced to endure. We've felt secure in the midst of those we love, admire and lie to daily (sometimes hourly) about how wonderful our lives are — and they believe us, and reciprocate in kind.

About A Geek Girl

  • Jane Bude

    Man! It’s scary.. what if a certain person who is well, what we call “dangerous,criminal,etc.” is using AT&T and would open an account of a certain person and he get all the personal information of that person who owns the account? it would be dangerous right? I hope that problem would be fixed soon before any crime will happen.

  • Ruvy

    I’m glad my cell-phone is ancient – and the internet access on my son’s expensive cell-phone is so expensive he barely ever uses it….

  • A Geek Girl

    Jane, it is scary if you keep banking or credit card info in an account. Passwords and security questions are another concern.

    The more these incidents are reported, the more likely something will be done about them. I can’t thank those women enough for bringing this story to our attention.

  • A Geek Girl

    Ruvy, you should tell your son. He can pass the info on to his friends. They’ll all be wiser.

  • Ruvy

    Thanks for the word of advice, Geek Girl…. Shall do.

  • H

    This issue is also true of AT&T and email accounts. I logged into hotmail via my AT&T cell phone and found myself looking at someone else’s inbox. I reported the problem and never received any feedback.