Hackers Reactivate Dormant Netflix Accounts, Frustrate Billed Users

When customer service goes awry

Netflix
When previously-canceled Netflix accounts are turned back on by hackers, frustration abounds.
Ajay Suresh/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / November 30, 2019 6:16 am

Keen-eyed watchers of the space where technology and culture overlap may recall the controversy that erupted last fall, when the now-shuttered MoviePass began reactivating the accounts of users who had previously canceled their memberships, complete with new charges and mixed messages. Now, a strange variation on that theme has returned — albeit with a much more stable company involved.

The BBC is reporting that numerous Netflix users who had canceled their accounts have discovered that those accounts have been turned back on. Who was responsible? Hackers, it turns out. According to the BBC’s report, Netflix retains customer data for up to 10 months after that customer cancels their account. Why? So that it’s easy to rejoin. 

Users can request that their account information be deleted, but it’s not the default procedure. And here’s where the vulnerabilities to hackers come into play — with its apex (or perhaps zenith) coming via an illicit trade in user accounts on eBay. 

One person who had canceled their account discovered that it had been turned back on, they had been billed for the new service — and that their password had been altered. Whoever was using the account then opted for a particularly irritating flourish: namely, signing up for the most expensive tier of service.

The industry of illegal sales of hacked Netflix accounts is not a new phenomenon; an article earlier this year explored the phenomenon, which has nearly as many permutations as there are streaming video services. It’s an unsettling side effect of a growing industry. 

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