In a permanent injunction filed in a Los Angeles court Thursday, District Attorney Steve Cooley said the wireless operators were overstating how secure their voice mails are. The settlements are the culmination of year-long investigation that was launched after multiple complaints of unauthorized voice-mail access, including some from celebrities Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.
"Our investigators found that cellular providers who claimed their systems were safe from such sabotage were wrong," said Cooley in a statement. "Cell phones purchased by undercover investigators were easily hacked into, enabling the voicemail to be changed at will by use of the spoofing system."
The district attorney said hacking into the voice mails allowed messages to be changed or erased, which could lead to "havoc." Investigators used TelTech Systems' SpoofCard software to break into voice mails. The software lets users perform caller ID spoofing, and it had been used to break into voice-mail accounts that don't require passwords.
Neither carrier admitted any wrongdoing, but AT&T agreed to pay $59,300, while T-Mobile will pay $25,000. Both companies said they are committed to user security, and are encouraging subscribers to set up advanced passwords for more protection.
"These cases illustrate how deeply new technology and misuse of it can affect the lives of consumers," Cooley said. "The software program that was advertised as 'legal in 50 states' was not legal in California and some other states."