ICT Minister: Leakage of Irancell Database Nothing New

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi

Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi referred to the recent leakage of personal information belonging to 20 million users of an Iranian cell phone operator, and noted that the database had been leaked out over 2 years ago.

It was earlier reported that someone had used a Telegram bot to hack the personal information belonging to a large number of Iranian users of the country’s second largest mobile phone operator MTN Irancell.

The hacked population is 20 million, equal to 75% of all the MTN Irancell users, Mehr reported on July 2.

A message appeared the night earlier saying that there was a bot in Telegram messaging app named @MTNProBot where one could insert an Irancell phone number and it could provide one with the personal information of the owner such as first and last name, landline phone number, national code, city, address and postal code.

Despite the earlier reports, Iran’s ICT Minister Mahmoud Vaezi noted that the database had been leaked out 2.5 years ago.

Addressing the Parliament on Sunday, July 3, Vaezi said the phone operator had given its database to one of the country’s bodies 2.5 years ago, but someone inside the body leaked the information at that time.

“Now, the same information is being published in a Telegram channel using a different method,” he stressed, as reported by ISNA and translated by IFP.

Vaezi also noted that the Telegram bot, through which the information was being offered to users, was soon blocked by Telegram based on the Ministry’s request.

According to the information, the bot had been available for 20 hours. There are about 40 million smartphones in Iran and Telegram is one of the hottest apps in the country, Trend reported.

Sources had earlier noted that the database was being sold to the private advertising agencies or any entity that needed this kind of information.

Irancell is the second largest mobile operator in Iran. It is 49% owned by the South Africa-based MTN Group. It worked very well since they launched in 2005, to the point that it brought competition to the market and shook MCI, the largest mobile network operator Iran.

An Internet bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering (web crawler), in which an automated script fetches, analyses and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human.