A court in the Henan provincial capital of Zhengzhou Thursday sentenced 14 people – among them eight former Foxconn employees – for hacking into the database of the contract electronics manufacturing giant to steal digital identity certificates, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Those certificates allowed the people to “jailbreak” the iPhones purchased in the US and make them work on Chinese telecom networks. Buyers in the U.S. can purchase an iPhone for as little as $199 if they get one subsidized by – and locked to – a U.S. carrier like AT&T.
The court found the 14 people made more 3 million yuan ($468,750) in less than five months from late 2011 to early 2012.
Foxconn confirmed the convictions but has yet to disclose additional details.
One of the defendants was a former Foxconn employee in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen surnamed Wu. Wu asked a company director in on the scam to install a wireless router near both Wu’s apartment and an office inside the company’s Zhengzhou factory in late 2011, according to The Wall Street Journal.
With the help of another Foxconn employee surnamed Bo, Wu and others obtained iPhone serial number information and then hacked into the iPhone’s identity certificate server system to make changes. Later, a Foxconn employee surnamed Ji inserted the modified certificate information into the company’s database and activated the handsets purchased in the U.S.
Five months later, Foxconn found abnormal activity in its database and reported the incident to the police.