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/freek'ing/ "phone phreak" 1. The art and science of cracking the telephone network so as, for example, to make free long-distance calls.

2. By extension, security-cracking in any other context (especially, but not exclusively, on communications networks).

At one time phreaking was a semi-respectable activity among hackers; there was a gentleman's agreement that phreaking as an intellectual game and a form of exploration was OK, but serious theft of services was taboo. There was significant crossover between the hacker community and the hard-core phone phreaks who ran semi-underground networks of their own through such media as the legendary "TAP Newsletter".

This ethos began to break down in the mid-1980s as wider dissemination of the techniques put them in the hands of less responsible phreaks. Around the same time, changes in the phone network made old-style technical ingenuity less effective as a way of hacking it, so phreaking came to depend more on overtly criminal acts such as stealing phone-card numbers.

The crimes and punishments of gangs like the "414 group" turned that game very ugly. A few old-time hackers still phreak casually just to keep their hand in, but most these days have hardly even heard of "blue boxes" or any of the other paraphernalia of the great phreaks of yore.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Having developed along with modern technology and drawing upon the methodology and discoveries generated by phreakers, a modern day "more serious twist on [that] old crime" has manifested itself in the practice of swatting.
4; see also Don't Make the Call, supra note 7 (describing "phone phreakers" and their practices "hacking into phone companies' computers and making free long-distance calls").
In 1971, Esquire ran an article about Engressia, Draper and the whole phreaker scene.
"Personal firewalls are almost required at this point, especially with people with high-speed connections to the Net," says Winn Schwartau, a computer security consultant and author of the book Cybershock: Surviving Hackers, Phreakers, Identity Thieves, Internet Terrorists and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
[80] Silly pranks by hackers occasionally provided a bit of amusement, some telecom firms lost a bit of revenue from phreakers tricking their billing systems, and crackers would infrequently get past a few security firewalls in the Department of Defense, major university, or big-bank computer systems to create mischief.
Instead, he was able to keep the line open, dial any number he wanted without paying a penny, and join a select group of hackers called "Phreakers".
Kodak's provider will absorb costs incurred by phreakers if the problem is identified within a reasonable time (a month or two), but it's more likely to be Kodak's responsibility if it takes, say, six months.
However, preliminary inroads have already been made in a study of hackers and phreakers (Meyer 1989).
Phone Pirates -- Long Distance Theft: What It Is, How It Happens, and How to Protect Your Phone Bills From Hackers, Phone Phreakers and Organized Crime by lan Angus and Gerry Blackwell.