Sprint Nextel Fights Data Bandits, Again
Sprint Nextel has slapped All Star Investigations with a lawsuit, accusing it of fraudulently obtaining and selling wireless customer call records through "flagrant misrepresentation and deceitful practices," the telco giant announced today. The complaint against the investigative firm was filed in Dade Country, FL, on Friday, one day after Sprint Nextel filed a lawsuit against 1st Source Information Specialists, the parent company of four online data brokers. In that suit the company accuses 1st Source of posing as customers looking for information about their accounts to access cell phone logs and phone numbers. Sprint Nextel has requested temporary and permanent injunctions against both companies.
"The schemes perpetrated by these online data brokers are intolerable and our intent is to put an end to these practices," Kent Nakamura, vice president for telecom management and chief privacy officer for Sprint Nextel, said in a written statement. "Ensuring the highest quality customer service is at the very core of our business. These online data brokers attempt to manipulate our customer service resources and detract from service provided to legitimate customers." Sprint Nextel is encouraging customers to regularly change passwords used to access account information and to select unique passwords to access voicemail messages, according to the company.
Sprint Nextel's second suit in as many days marks the latest action taken by a telco against online data brokers. T-Mobile USA announced on January 23 that it sought an injunction to stop Locatecell.com and related companies and individuals from allegedly illegitimately obtaining and selling call records. Cingular Wireless obtained a temporary restraining order on January 13 against Data Find Solutions and 1st Source, and on January 25 the company obtained a temporary restraining order against eFindOutTheTruth.com. The FCC issued Data Find Solutions and 1st Source Information citations in January for failing to comply with a subpoena, which could lead to fines if they continue to refuse to comply, according to the FCC's Web site.
Hackers are exploiting both technical and "flesh-and-blood" vulnerabilities, says Wayne Eckerson, director of research and services at The Data Warehousing Institute. "You can never make a lock strong enough that hackers can't pick. These cases show that customers bear some responsibility for ensuring the security of their own records. Customers need to take precautions when selecting and safeguarding passwords," he says. Companies, meanwhile, should take a three-pronge approach: Educate customers on how to safeguard their data, continuously revise internal processes for allowing users to do business online, and pursue legal action, according to Eckerson. "Litigation can hurt hackers where it hurts most-their legal status and bank accounts."
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