Bloomberg News

AT&T Tells Users of ‘Organized and Systematic’ Hack Attempt

November 24, 2011

(Updates with earlier data outage in fifth paragraph.)

Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. telephone company, notified customers of an effort by hackers to collect online account information.

“We recently detected an organized and systematic attempt to obtain information on a number of AT&T customer accounts, including yours,” AT&T said in an e-mail to customers. “We do not believe that the perpetrators of this attack obtained access to your online account or any of the information contained in that account.”

AT&T said the hacking attempt used so-called auto script technology to “determine whether AT&T telephone numbers were linked to online AT&T accounts,” company spokesman Mark Siegel wrote in an e-mail. In a telephone interview, Siegel said that less than 1 percent of the Dallas-based company’s customers were affected.

“Our investigation is ongoing to determine the source or intent of the attempt to gather this information,” Siegel wrote in the e-mail.

Earlier today, AT&T customers in the northeastern U.S. experienced a wireless data outage that was restored after a three-hour service disruption. AT&T says there was no connection between the two events.

Last year, AT&T was the target of hackers who managed to obtain the e-mail addresses of users of Apple Inc. iPads. At the time, hackers were able to collect the e-mail addresses from the auto-fill function on AT&T’s iPad customer logins. Siegel said there was also no connection to that hack.

Sony, Citigroup

The company says its focus on security and swift action helped identify the most recent hack attempt and alert customers quickly.

AT&T fell 1.4 percent to $28.23 at 2:07 p.m. in New York trading. The shares were down 2.5 percent this year before today.

Data breaches this year at companies including Sony Corp. and Citigroup Inc. have focused U.S. government attention on hackers preying on corporate systems.

The Obama administration is pushing Congress to pass legislation aimed at improving network security in financial services, energy, transportation and other industries considered critical to U.S. national and economic security.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to bring comprehensive cybersecurity legislation to the Senate floor for debate early next year.

--Editors: Niamh Ring, James Callan

To contact the reporters on this story: Scott Moritz in New York at smoritz6@bloomberg.net Eric Engleman in Washington, D.C. at eengleman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ville Heiskanen at vheiskanen@bloomberg.net


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