Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sister Newspapers' News

July 11, 2012

AT&T dismisses $1M hacker bill, but victim wants money

IPSWICH, Mass. - AT&T filed a motion this week to dismiss its lawsuit against a local businessman protesting $1 million in bills for calls to Somalia by unknown parties who hacked into his phone system.

But the businessman, Michael Smith, says he's not dropping his countersuit against the phone company because fighting AT@T over the disputed bills cost him $30,000 in legal fees and countless hours of anxiety dealing with the problem.

"They put me through three years of absolute hell," said Smith, owner of a tool-making company. "I can't have them fold up shop and say, 'Oh, sorry to inconvenience you' and walk away."

Like a lot of small businesses, Smith uses a private phone network known as a PBX that allows his employees to access the system remotely with passwords.

But during a six-day period in September of 2009, he said, hackers accessed the system and ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in calls to Somalia, one of the poorest and most violent nations in Africa.

Smith did not learn of the hacking until he received his phone bill, which amounted to $1 million in charges and interest.

AT@T sued the businessman to collect the sum, arguing his company had inadequate security to protect against the hacking.

Publicity over the dispute led to AT&T agreeing to dismiss its claim, and requesting that Smith do the same with his counterclaim.

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Details for this story were provided by the Salem, Mass., News.

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