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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.
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.
In 1971, Esquire ran an article about Engressia, Draper and the whole phreaker scene.
In an ironic twist that the company's ex phreaker CEO must surely appreciate on some level, iPhone hacker George Hotz has since been given a Nissan 350Z and three more iPhones as payment for the one he modified.
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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.
Hacker/cracker tools identified by Tally Systems Census products will be classified as "Suspicious," and include all types of mischievous software, such as audioware, bombers, breachers, cloakers, crackers, crypters, IRC, key loggers, nukers, PDA, phreakers, pranksters, scanners, sniffers, spoofers, trojans and virus makers.
23 /PRNewswire/ -- MCI (NASDAQ-NMS: MCIC) will tell attendees of the upcoming Southeastern Telecommunications Association (SETA) convention how to fight back against hackers, phreakers and shoulder surfers.
Hackers and phreakers continually find creative means to steal businesses' assets through the PBX," said Ed Simonson, president of TeleDesign Management, Inc.