Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Silence: Calling a SWAT Team Near You

Have you ever heard of the term swatting? How about the term phreaking or phreaker? In this digital age of computers, tweets, and iPhones, the art of phreaking has died for all but the most diehard of enthusiasts. Most hackers have switched to Wardriving and hacking RFID tags, but to the few circles left, it's still all about the telephone. Phreaking is hacking for telephones, and those who know the art can be dangerous.

Perhaps the most dangerous of these skilled scammers is one by the name of Matthew Weigman: a blind teen who discovered he had the uncanny ability to identify phone numbers by tone and to mimic and identify voices in order to complete his nefarious goals. Through his years of phreaking, Weigman, going by the name of Lil Hacker and Silence, became familiar with phone technicians for both AT&T and Verizon to the point of gaining high level security clearance in both companies.

Eventually, the FBI became interested in cracking down on phreakers and their ilk, and an agent showed up to Weigman's house to work out a deal since Weigman was still a minor. During their conversation, the agent's cell phone rang, and he answered to simply tell the caller that he was busy and would have to return the call later. When the agent ended the call, Weigman simply asked if that was Bill Smith with Verizon. It was, and the agent was impressed that Weigman could identify the voice from across the room. This was the level of expertise he possessed.

The exploits of Weigman are incredible, but the article is lengthy. I wanted to share only a bit here, so to continue reading, check out the complete article, The Boy Who Heard Too Much, at Rolling Stone. It's incredible to see some of the things Matt has pulled off which brings me full circle. Remember swatting at the beginning of this article? Well, swatting is prank calling 911 to send the SWAT out to a rival phreaker or generally just anyone you wish. This was a favorite tactic of "Silence" during his years in phreaking and it's one of the main reasons the FBI is cracking down. It takes crucial time and manpower away from where it might otherwise be needed, but it does make for an intriguing story!