Call Mom

By Paul F. Roberts  |  Posted 2006-02-27 Print this article Print

and Sports Scores"> Next, Bubrouskis phone started receiving SMS sports scores and news from ESPN, the sports cable network, which had struck up a partnership with Verizon.

Bubrouskis phone was still getting dozens of messages from the service, but because the service wasnt public yet, he couldnt find anyone at Verizon or ESPN who had heard of it and could help him with his problem.
Bubrouski said he deleted the messages from his phone. He was unable to provide proof of the OnStar or ESPN messages to eWEEK.
In a pattern that would repeat itself in the years to come, Bubrouski simply blocked the ESPN e-mail address using a blocking list at and waited for the next stream of messages to hit his phone. Over time, Bubrouski accumulated a block list of around 15 "offenders"—individuals and companies who were sending him large volumes of unsolicited information. Click here to read about Verizons worldwide mobile e-mail. Bubrouski theorizes that his choice of user name is the culprit in the data leaks. In the world of software design, "Null" is commonly used to represent "no value" or "0." Developers of mobile services use the "Null" address during testing routines, assuming that the messages wont be sent to anyone. Verizon may also be substituting "Null" for an invalid or missing "To" address in messages sent over Vtext, he said. Misplaced "Call Mom" messages arent likely to harm anyone, but by late 2004, the unsolicited SMS problem exploded, and took on a darker nature, as mobile data services started popping up all over to take advantage of a new generation of feature-rich mobile phones, Bubrouski said. "I was getting peoples grades, order information from unknown retailers, personal messages with peoples credit card numbers [and] social security numbers," he wrote. Most of the messages were sent by individuals, but many arrived in volume from companies like eMbience Inc. of San Diego, Calif., which unwittingly sent reams of MapQuest Traffic data to Bubrouskis phone. An eMbience spokeswoman said that Bubrouskis vText account was the same as an account used by engineers for internal testing. Once eMbience was informed, in November, that MapQuest test messages were going to Bubrouskis phone, they changed the address used in testing for the companys services. Another company involved was Vocel Inc., also of San Diego, which develops mobile data services for companies including The Princeton Review and Random House. The companys Princeton Review service helps students study for a variety of standardized tests using their cell phone, including the SAT, GRE and LSAT, according to Tyler Jensen, vice president of operations at Vocel. A new Vocel service that is in testing called "Pill Phone" sends medication reminders to individuals cell phones, he said. Next Page: SAT scores and medication reminders.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel