T-Mobile CEO John Legere Goes After Mobile Data Thieves

Legere says that a small number of T-Mobile's customers are stealing lots of extra data through hacks and that he is working to stop them.

mobile data thieves

T-Mobile's CEO and president John Legere is leading a battle against a small number of customers who are abusing T-Mobile's tethered data limits by a large margin, which he said cheats honest customers and his company.

In an open letter to T-Mobile's 59 million customers on Aug. 30, Legere (pictured) wrote that he is "taking aim at a select group of individuals who have actually been stealing data from T-Mobile. If their activities are left unchecked, their actions could eventually have a negative effect on the experience of honest T-Mobile customers. Not on my watch."

These hackers, he said, "are stealing data so blatantly and extremely that it is ridiculous."

Their method is simple and devious, according to Legere. The offending customers, which are only a tiny number of the company's overall users, are buying T-Mobile's unlimited 4G LTE plan for their smartphones, which include a fixed amount of 4G LTE data for tethering of other mobile devices, but they are introducing hacks and software that can quietly defeat the tethering limits, he wrote.

Normally, if a customer hits the limits of the 7GB monthly tethering data allocation, their tethering speeds drop and they can add on more optional high-speed data, if desired, he wrote.

"However, these violators are going out of their way with all kinds of workarounds to steal more LTE tethered data," according to Legere. "They're downloading apps that hide their tether usage, rooting their phones, writing code to mask their activity, etc. They are 'hacking' the system to swipe high-speed tethered data. These aren't naive amateurs; they are clever hackers who are willfully stealing for their own selfish gain."

T-Mobile estimates the number of data thieves at about 1/100 of a percent of its 59 million customers, but some of the offenders are illegally using as much as 2TB of data each month, he wrote. "I'm not sure what they are doing with it—stealing wireless access for their entire business, powering a small cloud service, providing broadband to a small city, mining for Bitcoin—but I really don't care!"

To stop it, T-Mobile is putting the thieves on notice immediately and advising them that the company will do everything in its power to fight them and stop them, he wrote.

"We are going after every thief, and I am starting with the 3,000 users who know exactly what they are doing," wrote Legere. "The offenders start hearing from us tomorrow. No more abuse and no risk to the rest of our customers' experience. It's over. If you are interested, you can find more info in our support forum."

In the end, the fight is for the company's honest customers to protect their rights to use the data that they pay for, Legere continued. "I'm not in this business to play data cop, but we started this wireless revolution to change the industry for good and to fight for consumers. I won't let a few thieves ruin things for anyone else. We're going to lead from the front on this, just like we always do. Count on it!"

Offending customers who refuse to halt their data thefts will first be warned and then will be switched from unlimited 4G LTE plans to entry-level limited plans, according to the company. T-Mobile has "developed technology that can detect people who deliberately choose to break our terms and conditions," according to an FAQ on the topic, and their future data use is now being observed. "That way, we can enforce our terms and conditions and protect the network experience for all customers."