A company that is a critical part of the global telecommunications infrastructure used by AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and several others around the world such as Vodafone and China Mobile, quietly disclosed that hackers were inside its systems for years, impacting more than 200 of its clients and potentially millions of cellphone users worldwide.
The company, Syniverse, revealed in a filing dated September 27 with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission that an unknown “individual or organization gained unauthorized access to databases within its network on several occasions, and that login information allowing access to or from its Electronic Data Transfer (EDT) environment was compromised for approximately 235 of its customers.”
A former Syniverse employee who worked on the EDT systems told Motherboard that those systems have information on all types of call records.
“Syniverse is a common exchange hub for carriers around the world passing billing info back and forth to each other,” the source, who asked to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to talk to the press, told Motherboard. “So it inevitably carries sensitive info like call records, data usage records, text messages, etc. […] The thing is—I don’t know exactly what was being exchanged in that environment. One would have to imagine though it easily could be customer records and [personal identifying information] given that Syniverse exchanges call records and other billing details between carriers.”
The company wrote that it discovered the breach in May 2021, but that the hack began in May of 2016.
“The world’s largest companies and nearly all mobile carriers rely on Syniverse’s global network to seamlessly bridge mobile ecosystems and securely transmit data, enabling billions of transactions, conversations and connections [daily],” Syniverse wrote in a recent press release.
“Syniverse has access to the communication of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people around the world. A five-year breach of one of Syniverse’s main systems is a global privacy disaster,” Karsten Nohl, a security researcher who has studied global cellphone networks for a decade, told Motherboard in an email. “Syniverse systems have direct access to phone call records and text messaging, and indirect access to a large range of Internet accounts protected with SMS 2-factor authentication. Hacking Syniverse will ease access to Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and all kinds of other accounts, all at once.”
Syniverse disclosed the breach in an August SEC filing as the company gearing to go public at a valuation of $2.85 billion via a merger with M3-Brigade Acquisition II Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).
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