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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 ?
(53) It is clear that the legacy of phreaking, which grew out of harmless curiosity to explore a new technology, has progressed into a frightening and dangerous means of political attack in swatting.
(16) Phreaking is the act of hacking into or manipulating a telephone network.
The global cost of "phreaking" is estimated at more than PS3bn - with the cash generated often used to fund other organised crime or terrorist organisations.
Cowens director Stuart Williams said: "Phreaking is costing businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds every year.
The decisive moment in the rise of Microsoft may well have been the piracy of Bill Gates's first programming code by San Francisco-area hobbyists (chapter 16, "From Phreaking to Fudding").
<p>Hackers made headlines for breaking into phone company systems more than 20 years ago -- a practice that was known as phreaking -- but as the traditional telephone system has become integrated with the Internet, it's creating new opportunities for fraud that are only just beginning to be understood.
Aresurgence of the old days of "phone phreaking"--hacking into phone systems--led to a crackdown late last year on "swatting," a more aggressive type of phone phreaking.
Phreaking, hacking, viruses, worms, identity theft--what's next?
He gave this information to Draper, whose extensive use of the whistle made him a phreaking legend.