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Just how easy is phone hacking?

Right now in the UK, the subject of phone hacking is a delicate subject. The News Of The World are closing down this weekend due to a scandal involving phone hacking. If you live outside the UK, or under a rock and want to find out what this is all about, check this page out.

The big question that many people have been asking this week however is “What on earth is phone hacking all about?”.  Most of us know that the term ‘hacking’ means to give unapproved access to an unknown source. Phone hacking is better known as ‘phreaking’ among the educated audience and CNET decided to ask an expert, to find out how hard it is.

They called up Kevin Mitnick, a chap who ended up in jail after writing a book about it a while ago. The author of the article Elinor Mills gave Kevin his mobile phone number and he set about hacking the phone.

Hacker Kevin Mitnick : (Credit: Declan McCullagh/CNET)

“He called me right back on a conference call so I could hear what was going on. First he dialed a number to a system he uses for such demonstration purposes and entered a PIN. Then he was prompted to enter the area code and phone number that he wanted to call (mine) and the number he wanted to be identified as calling from (again mine). Next thing I know I’m listening to a voice message a friend of mine left me last night that I hadn’t erased.”

Mitnick was also able to get into the voice mail by fooling the phone operator’s equipment into registering the call as coming from the handset, pretending to be the owner.

“To do this, he wrote a script using open-source telecom software and used a voice-over-IP provider that allows him to set caller ID, but there also are online services that provide similar capability that non-hackers could subscribe to. It might be easier or harder to accomplish depending on the mobile operator, he said. (I’m keeping some of the details sketchy to avoid providing a how-to for phreaking.)”

Mitnick said that a 15 year old who can write a simple script can do it. He added “If you’re not adept at programming, you could use a spoofing service and pay for it.”

Kitguru says: We will hopefully see less of this now from newspapers in the UK, as the implications have been proved very serious forcing the closure of the News Of The World.

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