Beginner's Guide to Phreaking
From Area51 Archives
History of Phreaking
Some say that all phreaking is just boxing. This is totally untrue. There are many aspects of phreaking. There is teleconferencing, social-engineering, field phreaking and much much more. I will be discussing many of these aspects in modern terms. Phreaking has been around since Bell created the telephone, which was long before hacking came about. Except it wasn't called phreaking at the time. In fact they did not have a word for it. But because of people breaking into telephone systems becoming more and more numerous around the early 80's, there was more and more need for a name. The people who broke into telephone systems were dubbed "phreakers". (Freek-er) is defined as someone who enters a telephone system without the proper authority. If you have seen the movie Wargames (which is a hacker/phreaker classic), you will see the boy sticking a small, metal object into the telephone. In this movie he played a phreaker/hacker. This movie was very popular at the time (The early 80's). This shows you a small piece of how phreakers were treated in those days. They were treated like heroes! Now the thought of the phreaker brings chills down people's spines. This was the time when there were few laws governing many areas of American and many European country's communication systems. But before the early 80's... there were no need for these laws. Very few people would try to break into the telephone system and use the telephone companies resources. This is around the time of Capt'n Crunch, Eric Bloodaxe and all of the really scary hackers/phreakers. Because of the vulnerable telephone networks and the need for new trends and hobbies at the dawn of the 80's, Phone Phreaking really began. It spread throughout the world like a wild-fire and did not stop until the early 90's. About the time when the BBS (Bulletin Board System) became just about obsolete, and so did phreaking. Phreakers are a dying race and the art of phreaking may soon be lost. As for the hackers... Hacking is becoming more and more widespread and it is now part of most American's vocabulary. (Whereas the general response to the words phreaking, phreak, or phreaker generally makes the listener shout "HUH?!").
Times change. More and more people today see on the news "A HACKER HAS DEFACED ONE OF OUR GOVERNMENT'S MOST TOP SECRET WEBSITES BY USING A SIMPLE CGI SCRIPT" Due to people nowadays being as gullible as they are and more widespread forms of communication, hacking is flourishing. People would generally rather watch television and use the computer rather than talk on the telephone. Phreaking is not dead by any means. There are thousands of teens as well as adults around the world learning the art of phreaking.
The main problem for phreaking is the small amount of technology that telecommunications have gone through over the years compared to computerized forms of communication. Most kids think that there are more "options" available as a computer user (which there is) than a telephone user. And This is because of this twenty-first century leap into computers, software as well as hardware has been changing rapidly and more and more people are buying computers and getting online, which gives hacker more targets to claim "UNSECURE!".
In the past, the hacker's enemy has been fellow hackers. But now, his enemy is most definitely the government. For the Phreaker, the enemy is telco and the government (The government is not very friendly as you can see). Telco is The telephone company if you are unfamiliar with this term. Telco is also the phreaker's best friend when it is giving him his free long distance calling to China (etc.) For phreaking to rise again, we must spread it around. Maybe someone will find new holes in telecommunications networks and create new problems for telco to solve. This would bring more interest to phreaking which could actually bring another uprise to the phreaker population. In my opinion that would be a good thing! I figured I would just provide some basic background on the history of phreaking. I hoped you enjoyed this section. Now... for the fun stuff!!!
Social Engineering is a very broad topic and I will only describe the main aspects of this art. Social Engineering is defined as manipulating the opinion and/or choices of another through words and actions. The best example of social engineering is prank calling. To some people this may seem immature and wrong. But to others, it is very good practice and very important for the hacker/phreaker. It builds confidence in the phreaker's ability to manipulate his targets to meet whatever goal he needs accomplished. This ability is very important. He may need it to coax a man into giving him his answering machine password, maybe even convince someone that he is a telco worker and get information out of them in this way. Basically what I am saying is, the best way to develop your social engineering skills is by prank calling. I have read a few texts on this subject and I believe the best way to go about prank calling is to start by calling a number like America Online technical support (1-888-265-8006), 1800-GATEWAY, or another large company of this sort. Make the call last as long as possible! And do this by not laughing, not angering the person on the other end of the telephone, and not doing something totally out of the ordinary. For example, Call America online and say "Hi, I have a computer virus, there is a naked ninety year old woman wearing a Turban dancing around my computer screen, Can you please help me?". And be creative from there. Although it has nothing to do with America Online, ninety percent of the time they will accept the call as legitimate and keep talking with you. And THAT is the trick to prank calling! Keeping the call legitimate... If you call and start laughing, they will know right away that you are lying and hang up. The same applies if you are making them angry. They will just hang up. And them hanging up on you is not good practice at all. If you get good enough, you will be able to convince anyone to do or think just about anything. And that is exactly what a con-artist does. He creates a mental connection with a person and makes them feel that something that usually would be totally ridiculous (The action or thought the con-artist is trying to send to the person), would be perfectly normal! And it works! All it takes is practice. And prank calling is the absolutely the best way to develop your social engineering skills.
Boxing (Field Phreaking)
There is a misconception that Boxing is field phreaking. This is not true. Boxing is just one form of the many parts and pieces of field phreaking. Basically field phreaking is phreaking at a remote location. Examples would be, at an enemy's house, at a party, etc. There are many types of boxes and are almost all named after a color. The most popular boxes are the Red Box, the Blue Box, and the Beige Box. Although the blue box is almost totally obsolete, it is very famous. The red box (which is used to free local calling at pay telephones) still does work. But you must find a telephone that it will work on. Alot of older telephones will work when using your red box. Cocots and Fortress phones are the main targets for phreakers using red boxes. A cocot is a customer owned, controlled and operated telephone. Another words, a business will pay money to get a pay phone installed around or in their business area. They will get the money for a monthly, or yearly fee instead of the usual case where all of the money goes to the telephone company that is running the telephone. "How do you know which phone is a cocot or not" you may ask. Well, the answer is easy. Cocots will NOT have telephone company stickers all over them. Like bellsouth, at&t and sprint. They may not have any stickers at all. Usually though, they will have some odd sticker on them, a sticker that you may see very rarely. On further investigation, the sticker(s) will usually say "Call xxx-xxx-xxxx for pricing". The telephone is screaming "COCOT!". But, there is the case where a small telephone company will run the telephone. But usually, it is At&t, Bell networks, and Sprint running pay telephones. A simple way to make a red box is :
- Buy a yak-bak or something of that sort.
- Record it from the internet. (There are tones readily available on phreaking software such as winphreak).
- OR, you can get the tones from a payphone.
- Go to a pay phone, and put in the money required (35 cents in my area).
- Call a number with a digital answering machine.
- Insert in one quarter, one dime, and one nickel, two or three seconds apart.
- Go to the house with the answering machine and record the tones onto your yak bak from there.
- To keep the tones from being over-written on your yak bak, open the yak bak and remove the record button entirely.
- This may not work considering the tones you have recorded may be distorted.
- If the tones are even slightly distorted, IT WILL NOT WORK! So don't screw up.
- Play the tones into the mouthpiece of a payphone that is vulnerable to the red box.
- It should give you a dial tone and say "THANK YOU"
- You have now tricked the telephone into thinking that the money has been entered into the coin slot.
This is just a very simple way to create a red box. The real way to create a red box is creating it from scratch. A beige box or a lineman's handset as it is referred to by most telephone companies, is used to gain total access to a phoneline. With a beige box you can listen into telephone calls, dial out, and even do teleconferencing. This is a tool no phreak should be without. Have you ever wanted to listen into your neighbor's calls, or call out of state for free?! I KNOW THAT I HAVE! And I did! The neighbor was away... so I walked over, hooked up my trusty beige box and there I was, talking to a friend from England. The neighbor returned home while I was still on their telephone line, so I hung up. They picked up their phone and guess who picked up right after to listen to everything they were saying? ME! Of course, there is many boxes besides the red and the beige box, but I figured that I would only talk about the most popular ones. Get on your clothes, and get boxing! If you plan on becoming a phreaker, boxing is an essential.
I will explain this in step by step format which is alot easier for the writer and the viewer. This is not the only way to get free calling. Just a very easy way. This works on about thirty percent of modern day telephones. So go find a pay telephone and start phreaking!
- Buy a tone dialer if you do not have one. A tone dialer is a small electronic keypad usually used on rotary phones.
- Find a pay telephone.
- On the telephone, dial an eight hundred number. All payphones are forced to let you dial free eight hundred numbers.
- If and when someone answers, tell them to hang up because you have dialed the wrong number. (It doesn't really matter what you say, just get them to hang up).
- When he hangs up, the telephone you are on should give you a dial tone.
- If you can, just dial the phone number and you have got your free call.
- If the keypad is disabled, then stick the handy tone dialer to the mouth piece of the receiver, and dial the number on the tone dialer.
- If the mouth piece is disabled then well... you can dial with the keypad, but not talk.
- If the keypad and mouth piece is disabled... You are screwed, go find a different pay phone.
Just a suggestion... Tone dialers usually have a light on them. This light wastes the battery. To disable the light, open up the tone dialer, and clip the wire coming from the small amount of solder right under the back of the light. Take the clipped wire and solder it to the solder on the left side of the tone dialer. This will generate a loop to where you have disabled the light and are not loosing battery power by pressing it.
False: Phreaking is dead!
True: Phreaking is not dead, maybe dying. It is not nearly as popular as it has been in the past.
False: Boxes don't work anymore!
True: Most boxes don't work anymore... Some boxes only work under the right conditions.
False: Hacking is better than phreaking.
True : Hacking and phreaking are both arts. One is not better than the other.
False: Phreaking is wrong.
True: Phreaking is only wrong if you abuse it.
False: There is no point of phreaking.
True : Phreaking gives you knowledge of the telephone system you use every day. If you choose to abuse it... then there is no point in phreaking.
False: A war dialer is a form of phreaking.
True: Although this my be considered more of an opinion, I believe that a war dialer is for hacking exclusively. A war dialer has nothing to do with breaking into telephones, only finding carriers.
False: The only aspects of phreaking are boxing and social engineering.
True: This is totally untrue. Where there is new telephone technology, there is new aspects of phreaking. And new telephone technology is being created daily. (Although it is NOT being created as quickly as computer technology).
False: Phreaking is totally safe.
True: Messing with electronics can be very dangerous. Be careful! There is always a chance that you could electrocute yourself.
False: I cannot be caught when I am phreaking.
True: Phreaking can get you in alot of trouble. Try as hard as possible to phreak only at night and not to phreak with you own telephone. If you are caught phreaking, you will definitely regret it!
False: When I am done this text, I will be a great phreak.
True: Nope. This text is just to teach you the basics of phreaking.
- http://www.inforeading.com Very good site for texts.
- http://www.akur.net My site, which has alot of information on phreaking in the texts section.
- http://mystik.twoteeth.net Mystik's site.
- http://www.dugnet.net Dugnet irc server's site.
- http://www.phonelosers.org Damned good prank calls. =P
- http://www.phonebashing.com Funny guys running around in cell phone suits, stealing cell phones and breaking them.
- http://www.techfreakz.com Some pretty good information on scams and phreaking.
- http://www.attrition.org Very good information on hacking/phreaking etc.
Thanks mystik for helping with the text. You can contact me on irc on the server irc.dugnet.net in the channels #phreaking, #chatzone, and #programming or on efnet in channel #inforeading and #geekout. You can email me at [email protected] Thanks for reading my text on phreaking, I hope you have learned something from it. I may make more texts on other topics if I have time.
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