What is Phreaking?
Phreaking is an urban lingo that refers to a form of hacking on telecommunications networks. Basically it involves taking advantage of the security gaps of a typical telephone system for a person to make long distance calls for free, do wiretapping, control other people’s phone lines, and/or get free services offered by a certain telecommunications company. The one hacking the network is called a “phreak”, a “phreaker” or a “phone phreak”. The whole idea of “phreaking” is also referred to as the “HP culture”, with H referring to hacking and P referring to phreaking. With most of the telecom networks of today becoming high-tech and computerized, phreaking has been considered synonymous with hacking.
It was said that the process of phreaking and tapping into phone networks started as a somewhat innocent job for some. But later on, various computer hackers got into the game and took advantage of the system for personal and or corporate gains. A common phreaking setup involves a box that allows the phreaker to control a particular phone line or network without detection from the phone company. Some boxes even had different colors to signify different functions and different phreaking approaches. “Black boxes” were said to allow phreakers to make free long-distance calls using a home phone. “Red boxes” will help you make the same calls for free but this time it is attached to public and payphones. “Blue boxes” meanwhile are considered the main control boxes for the entire phone system of a particular network. Comparing these three boxes, the “red box” is said to be the easiest and cheapest to make.
One famous phreaker is John Draper, who was also known as “Captain Crunch”. He became famous for his phreaking activities which he started back in the 1960s the West Coast areas of the United States. Other phreaks that became famous are Mark Abene or “Phiber Optik”, Patrick Kroupa or “Lord Digital” and William Quinn or “decoder” among various others.
Today, phreaking activities have declined significantly as most phone and telecommunications companies have already set up security measures to counter phreaking attacks. Most phone systems have also converted now from analog to digital, making networks more secure.