Whos Reading Your Cells Text Messages?

A college student's cell phone becomes the recipient of a blizzard of lost text messages from all over the country.

Have you ever hit "Send" on a text message on your mobile phone before addressing it? Ever wondered where all those lost SMS text messages go? If so, you might want to speak with Stan Bubrouski, whose cell phone has been channeling wayward text messages from across the country for years.

Bubrouski, a computer science major at Northeastern University in Boston, is the proud owner of [email protected], an account on the popular Verizon text messaging service that allows Internet users to send e-mail and IM messages directly to his cell phone as SMS text messages.

Bubrouski said he was just being clever when he signed up for a Verizon vText account with the user name null, after his parents bought him his first mobile phone during his freshman year at Northeastern, in 2001.

"Ive been paying for it ever since," Bubrouski told eWEEK.

Bubrouskis new vText account didnt just hook him up with his friends, it also opened the door to a blizzard of unsolicited messages from individuals and companies that, for the last five years, have unwittingly forwarded reams of data to his phone.

That data has become more sensitive in recent months, as companies rush to deliver everything from SAT test scores to medical information and automobile diagnostics to cell phones and PDAs.

/zimages/1/28571.gifNew security threat: text messaging? Click here to read more.

Bubrouskis experience, while unusual, could be a sign of growing pains in the wireless industry, as companies rush to provide wireless data services, overlooking steps that could secure the data in transit, according to one security expert.

Bubrouski, who is finishing his senior year at Northeastern, noticed something strange about his vText account almost immediately after activating it in 2001.

"I started getting phantom text messages with no callback number and an empty From: field," Bubrouski wrote.

Initially, the content of the messages was innocuous, he said. "It was things like dont forget to drop the car off at bakers and to call mom at 781-XXX-XXXX, stuff like that," Bubrouski wrote.

The problem worsened in mid-2002, when Bubrouskis phone began channeling what he claims were dozens of messages from an e-mail address used by General Motors then-new "OnStar" system.

The messages quickly filled up the memory on his cell phone and contained diagnostic response to tests on a beta version of OnStar.

"Basically, peoples cars were sending messages to my phone," Bubrouski wrote.

Bubrouski contacted GM and was able to reach someone familiar with the OnStar tests, and get them to stop the messages after about a week.

"I was happy again … for about two weeks," he wrote.

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