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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 ?
15) Brent Dean, Phreaking and Spoofing--A Short History, Computer Crime & Tech.
Engressia got five years probation and had to swear off phreaking for good (although he did work as a troubleshooter for Mountain Bell in Denver for a while).
Interestingly, the "hackers" disapprove of those who "get a kick out of breaking into computers and phreaking the phone system.
PHREAKING - Originally a hacker term for cracking the phone network, now used of any employee making free calls.
Hacktivists are a special breed of hackers and crackers who attempt to call attention to an issue with a virtual call to arms using intrusions such as phreaking (interfering with phone systems) or creating technology to advance a political or social cause.
The fraud, called Phreaking, allows the criminal to make free use of airtime which is later billed to the unsuspecting user.
Relevant cases of misuse in the past have also included financial fraud, antisocial surveillance, and telephone phreaking.
This capability, known in the civil community as hacking, phreaking, and other terms for arcane computer skills, also poses cultural problems for the US military.
We were looking at stolen property, information [value], fraud, piracy, support fees, credit card fraud, [phone] phreaking, cable bootlegging, preventive costs, and viruses.
To Phrack readers and contributors, phreaking and hacking covered both legal and illegal activities, and some of the articles in Phrack provided information that could be useful for someone trying to gain access to a system or free use of telecommunications lines.