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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 ?
Phreaks, hackers, and trolls: The politics of transgression and spectacle.
(19) See Dean, supra note 15 (discussing businesses' use of phreaking methods for purposes of enabling call centers "to display one main telephone number on all outgoing calls, even though those calls were not really originating from those numbers"); see also Leeson 8c Coyne, supra note 18, at 513 (explaining Draper's discovery created an opportunity for exploitation of AT&T's switching system to make free long distance calls); Baraniuk, supra note 16 ("[H]ackers would phreak their way into teleconferencing systems in order to have all-night group discussions--always at the expense of someone else (a client of the teleconferencing company).").
At that time, phreaks were trying all sorts of ways to duplicate the frequency needed to jack the system, and Engressia discovered that a free whistle being given out in boxes of cereal could be used to that end.
Such theoretical musings aside, the first of the book's three parts, "The Evolution of the Hacker," provides a useful synopsis of the main stages in the evolution of hacker culture, from the first "phone phreaks" to the recent "script kiddies," who don't perform "true hacks." "'True hacks' are the result of understanding how things work (or, sometimes, don't work) and taking advantage of those flaws, oversights, or errors in an original way.
For the purpose of conciseness, this section treats as a single entity the characteristics of backers, crackers, and phreaks.
(Tech Talk) @ 2002 AP 35 Tools for Digital Sleuths (Tech Talk) @ 2002 AP 36 Advanced Cybertraining Courses Made Available (Tech Talk) @ 2002 JA 40 Financial Computer Intrusions Recorded (Tech Talk) @ 2002 JA 41 Hack Attacks Encyclopedia: A Complete History of Hacks, Cracks, Phreaks, and Spies Over Time (Book Review) @ 2002 JA 112 Computer Security Facilitating Remote Access (Working Wise) [Center for Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD] @ 2002 D 21 Bug Hunters Unite (Tech Talk) @ 2002 D 28 Good Advice Not Taken (Tech Talk) @ 2002 D 28 Patching Up Patching Measures (Tech Talk) @ 2002 D 31 Top Vulnerabilities Revealed (Tech Talk) @ 2002 D 32 The Road to Reconciliation @ 2002 D 36 Who's Winning the Cyberwars?
(At a Defcon Hacker Convention held in Las Vegas, attendees gleefully play "Spot the Fed," duly unmasking two unamused federal agents.) Such cyberculture types think over-regulation is infringing on free speech, just as '60s "phreaks" figured their tapping into Ma Bell's circuitry repped fair protest against a monopoly.
Hack Attacks Encylcopedia: A Complete History of Hacks, Cracks, Phreaks, and Spies Over Time
Understanding how those technologies open new areas of capability is increasingly becoming the province of computer scientists and a growing network of gifted amateurs--known as hackers, phreaks, and crackers.
Phreaks -- those who manipulate/crac the telephone system
The first ancestors of modern hackers were "phone phreaks," self-described hobbyists who tampered with telephone networks to get free long-distance calls, explore the technology, and play pranks on each other.