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30 June 2009, 15:44

Swatting phreaker swatted and heading to jail

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In the US a 19-year-old phreaker (or phone phreak) has been sentenced to more than eleven years in prison because he placed numerous emergency calls resulting in the dispatch of special police units or SWAT teams (Special Weapons and Tactics). The SWAT teams arrived at the locations from which the calls were placed only to find sleeping families. Such incidents are increasingly common in the US, giving rise to the term swatting.

In his calls to the 911 emergency line, the now convicted culprit sent falsified caller ID numbers and claimed to have hostages in custody. To change the caller ID function, the phreaker is reported to have manipulated several telephone networks, including AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. When a security specialist at Verizon discovered his activities and sought to investigate further, the phone phreak is said to have threatened the employee and made harassing calls to his land line number, while making the caller ID function appear to show friends and co-workers as placing the calls. At that point, the employee contacted the FBI.

According to US media reports, the phreaker, blind since birth, has been manipulating telephones since he was eight years old and has a reputation as a notorious hacker.

Swatting calls into question the trustworthiness of the telephone network - especially in the US. But the US telephone companies are not alone in their vulnerability to caller ID manipulation; in the UK, caller IDs can be falsified and an arbitrary telephone number sent that is not related to the location of the call.

There are also a growing number of reports of phishers faking telephone banking numbers (vishing). Such attacks are generally based on VoIP calls, since, for example, Skype calls cannot be traced back to their source.


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