A Teenage Hacker Figured Out How to Get Free Data on His Phone
We salute you, young cyberpunk.
Image: Jacob Ajit
Jacob Ajit is 17 and he just hacked his way to getting free phone data, presumably so that he can do whatever it is that Teens do online these days without alerting his parents with overage fees.
Memes? Mixtapes? Googling if you can get sick from too much peppermint liqueur? Hell if I know, but Ajit can apparently do it all now, for free.
"Honestly, I just investigated this out of curiosity, and to learn a bit about how these networks are configured," Ajit wrote me when I reached him over email. "T-Mobile will likely fix this soon, but I wanted to share my findings with the community in the meantime."
According to a Medium post Ajit posted on Wednesday, he made his discovery while playing around with a prepaid T-Mobile phone with no service. The phone was still able to connect to the network, although it would only take him to a T-Mobile portal asking him to renew the prepaid phone plan. For some reason, though, Ajit wrote that his internet speed test app still worked, albeit through a T-Mobile server.
"Just my phone's radios talking to the network's radios, free of any artificial shackles"
Ajit figured out that he was able to access media sent from any folder labelled "/speedtest," possibly because T-Mobile whitelists media files from speed tests regardless of the host. He tested his theory by setting up a "/speedtest" folder on his own site and filled it with media, including a Taylor Swift music video, which he was able to access. Ajit writes that he then created a proxy server that allows users to access any site with this method. All a T-Mobile user has to do is go to this page and input any URL they want to visit.
"Just like that, I now had access to data throughout the T-Mobile network without maintaining any sort of formal payments or contract," Ajit wrote on Medium. "Just my phone's radios talking to the network's radios, free of any artificial shackles."
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Motherboard reporter and T-Mobile customer Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai turned off his data and tried it out, but the trick failed. It's possible that the workaround only exists for prepaid phones that maintain a network connection just to take users to a top-up page, or T-Mobile fixed the issue, or whatever Ajit thought was happening here, wasn't.
T-Mobile hasn't responded to Motherboard's request for comment, and we will update this post when we hear from them.
If you're thinking to yourself right now, like I did, Jesus Christ when I was in highschool I pretty much just smoked weed, Ajit is a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, one of the top public magnet schools in the US. I mean, he's in high school, so who knows about the weed thing—in which case good luck getting hired by the feds, kid—but the point is that he's pretty smart.
And, yeah, he said he wants to go to college for computer science.