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T-Mobile downplays hacking fears

'No evidence customer data compromised'

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T-Mobile USA is fighting suggestions its systems were breached by hackers with a new statement clarifying that although the limited data posted on an underground forum was genuine its ongoing investigation has uncovered no evidence of a wider compromise.

Hackers published system config files from T-Mobile's US network on Saturday alongside claims they had compromised the carrier's core systems. "We have everything, their databases, confidential documents, scripts and programs from their servers, [and] financial documents up to 2009," the anonymous hackers claimed.

The unidentified cybercrooks solicited bids from interested parties via an email address, pwnmobile@safe-mail.net, which has since been shut down.

To support their claim the hackers offered a sample of what appeared to be a network topography map and configuration information about T-Mobile's servers. T-Mobile said on Tuesday that the data posted matches a document on its system while reassuring customers that its ongoing investigation had uncovered nothing to suggest customers' information had been exposed. It promised to notify customers quickly in the event of discovering a breach that affected them.

T-Mobile issued a further (more emphatic) statement on Wednesday stating it had uncovered "no evidence that customer information, or other company information, has been compromised".

Following a recent online posting that someone allegedly accessed T-Mobile servers, the company is conducting a thorough investigation and at this time has found no evidence that customer information, or other company information, has been compromised. Reports to the contrary are inaccurate and should be corrected.

T-Mobile continues to monitor this situation and as a precaution has taken additional measures to further ensure our customers' information and our systems are protected.

As is our standard practice, customers can be assured if there is any evidence that customer or system information has been compromised, we would inform those affected as quickly as possible.

The absence of evidence is no proof of anything, one way or another. T-Mobile's admission that the config file data posted by hackers is itself genuine might be explained by other reasons other than the claims of cybercrooks that they had successfully pwned T-Mobile USA's systems.

An unauthorised network scan - which ought by rights to have been blocked - might have yielded the information which the hackers then attempted to parlay into big bucks via inflated claims of a full compromise. The information might conceivably have come from a corrupt insider, though that seems far less likely.

It's noteworthy that the hackers involved failed to offer a sample of juicy information that might both substantiate their claims and grease the wheels of the auction they attempted to run.

It's even more odd that they attempted to solicit bids via an email address, which was bound to get quickly shut down given the publicity their claimed compromise was bound to attract, rather than an IRC channel or some other underground forum.

T-Mobile USA's position is not helped by the fact that parent firm Deutsche Telekom admitted a breach that exposed 17 million customer records last year, even though it might have nothing to do with the current security flap.

Speculation is running rife and is likely to continue until T-Mobile USA finishes its investigation and issues a definitive statement. ®

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