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Paris Hilton Hack Started With Old-Fashioned Con


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Paris Hilton Hack Started With Old-Fashioned Con, Source Says Hacker Posed as T-Mobile Employee to Get Access to Information

Washington Post.com, 05/19/2005


"When hotel heiress Paris Hilton found out in February that her high-tech wireless phone had been taken over by hackers, many assumed that only a technical mastermind could have pulled off such a feat. But as it turns out, a hacker involved in the privacy breach said, the Hilton saga began on a decidedly low-tech note -- with a simple phone call.

Computer security flaws played a role in the attack, which exploited a programming glitch in the Web site of Hilton's cell phone provider, Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile International. But one young hacker who claimed to have been involved in the data theft said the crime only succeeded after one member of a small group of hackers tricked a T-Mobile employee into divulging information that only employees are supposed to know.

The young hacker described the exploit during online text conversations with a washingtonpost.com reporter and provided other evidence supporting his account, including screen shots of what he said were internal T-Mobile computer network pages. Washingtonpost.com is not revealing the hacker's identity because he is a juvenile crime suspect and because he communicated with the reporter on the condition that he not be identified either directly or through his online alias.

A senior law enforcement official involved in the case said investigators believe the young hacker's group carried out the Paris Hilton data theft and was also involved in illegally downloading thousands of personal records from database giant LexisNexis Inc. The source asked not to be identified because of his role in this and other ongoing investigations. . . .

The conversation -- which represents the recollection of the hacker interviewed by washingtonpost.com -- began with the 16-year-old caller saying, "This is [an invented name] from T-Mobile headquarters in Washington. We heard you've been having problems with your customer account tools?"

The sales representative answered, "No, we haven't had any problems really, just a couple slowdowns. That's about it."

Prepared for this response, the hacker pressed on: "Yes, that's what is described here in the report. We're going to have to look into this for a quick second."

The sales rep acquiesced: "All right, what do you need?"

When prompted, the employee then offered the Internet address of the Web site used to manage T-Mobile's customer accounts -- a password-protected site not normally accessible to the general public -- as well as a user name and password that employees at the store used to log on to the system. . . .

Later, using their own Sidekick phone, the hackers pulled up the secure T-Mobile customer records site, looked up Hilton's phone number and reset the password for her account, locking her out of it. Typical wireless devices can only be hacked into by someone physically nearby, but a Sidekick's data storage can be accessed from anywhere in T-Mobile's service area by someone with control of the account. That means the hackers were at that point able to download all of her stored video, text and data files to their phone. . . .

"It's pretty amazing how poorly secured their Web properties are," said Koziol, whose company offers training to corporate, law enforcement and government clients on the latest techniques and tactics used by hackers. "Most of these flaws are simple Web Security 101, stuff you'd learn about in the first few chapters of a basic book on how to secure Web applications."" :evil:


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