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Russia’s MTS stunned as customer data stolen

Russia’s MTS stunned as customer data stolen

MOSCOW-Biggest Russian carrier Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) was stunned to see its database of clients sold on pirate CD across Moscow and launched an investigation among the staff.

The CD containing private data on some 3 million Moscow clients of the company, including their account numbers, is offered for US$150 in numerous stalls notorious for selling other pirate audio and video materials.

MTS spokeswoman Eva Prokofyeva said the carrier is investigating the theft, but admitted it is a difficult task to find the culprit. She calmed down the clients, saying the copied database did not allow anyone to abuse their accounts.

Russian media recalled MTS had to open the database for security services during the unprecedented Moscow theater siege in October 2002, when Chechen kamikaze terrorists took 800 spectators hostage. Mobile phones were widely used both by hostages and terrorists during the three days of the siege. The former contacted their relatives and police, while the latter spoke to their bosses inside and outside Russia. MTS competitor Vimpelcom (BeeLine) also provided its database to security officials as is envisaged by law.

Vimpelcom extended sympathies to MTS and advised to search for the culprit inside the company, rather than among security officials.

Market experts believe the theft would hardly cause major problems to MTS, as clients sensitive to personal data are accustomed to changing their telephone numbers regularly, while others prefer to stick to one same number regardless of possible problems, which may comprise a short campaign of short message service (SMS) free advertisements and hooligan calls.

“I personally believe there will be no exodus of clients,” said Anton Pogrebinsky from ACM-Consulting, adding however that it remains to be seen.