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Teen Phone Phreak Targeted by the FBI

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the asking-for-trouble-and-giving-the-rest-of-us-a-bad-name dept.

Communications 431

Wired has an interesting editorial on the latest resurgence of the old days of phone phreaking and the latest phreak that is rising into the FBI crosshairs. The most recent hoax, "swatting", involves malicious pranksters calling police with reports of fake murders, hostage crises, or the like and spoofing the call to appear as though it was from another location. "Now the FBI thinks it has identified the culprit in the Colorado swatting as a 17-year-old East Boston phone phreak known as "Li'l Hacker." Because he's underage, is not reporting Li'l Hacker's last name. His first name is Matthew, and he poses a unique challenge to the federal justice system, because he is blind from birth. If he's guilty, the attack is at once the least sophisticated and most malicious of a string of capers linked to Matt, who stumbled into the lingering remains of the decades-old subculture of phone phreaking when he was 14, and quickly rose to become one of the most skilled active phreakers alive."

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What's the point...? (5, Insightful)

AdamTrace (255409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603678)

I love a good prank as much as the next guy, but sending the SWAT team to an innocent persons house? That's not that cool...

Re:What's the point...? (5, Funny)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603720)

What if it was Jack Thompson's house?

Re:What's the point...? (5, Insightful) (913902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603934)

The OP specified an "innocent person's house." I don't think Jack Thompson fits into that category.

Re:What's the point...? (0, Redundant)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603940)

he said 'innocent person' - jack is certainly not innocent.

Re:What's the point...? (5, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604014)

What if it was Jack Thompson's house?

Nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure.

Re:What's the point...? (0, Redundant)

flewp (458359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604062)

The OP said "innocent".

No kidding (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603758)

Instead of calling him a "prankster", a "hacker", etc. and then complaining that he is giving "the rest of us a bad name", why not call him what he really is?

A sociopath, a criminal.

A Hero. (3, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603862)

If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear from your militarized police force!

Re:No kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604314)

An idiot.
But if the pranks done by an idiot get publicized more than what they are worth, he's not the most idiot of the lot.

What's the problem? (2, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603790)

Our police SWAT teams always comport themselves justly. Of course, due to cowardice of many American voters, they can now just bust in and start shooting without saying a word. If a few innocents have to die so that the retarded "take my freedoms and tell me I'm safe" can be shown how wrong they are, so be it.

Of course, I'm betting it won't be my house...pretty good odds :D

Re:What's the problem? (0, Troll)

Itninja (937614) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603916)

I think you are mistaking SWAT Teams with bounty hunters. The latter can (and have according to Law & Order) slaughter an entire family by mistake and get community service.

Nope, SWAT teams do this all the time. (4, Interesting)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604040)

I'll borrow a link from another poster that is better than the one I had. []

Hell, a 80-year-old grandmother was killed dead because the cops could just bust in with no warning and start shooting. Too bad the scum got the wrong fucking house. Makes me sick.

Re:Nope, SWAT teams do this all the time. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604308)

Someone points out that cops are human and make mistakes and gets modded a troll. Aww, I guess a cop's feelings got hurt. Maybe instead of modding people down they should ask themselves what they could be doing to earn back the respect that they cry about nobody giving them for free anymore.

Re:What's the problem? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604142)

I believe everything I see on TV, too.

Re:What's the point...? (1)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603888)

If you're gonna go, man, go all out.

I hear they call that "swatting" these days.

"Yeah, Sam got swatted last night during the evening news. He didn't realize that the TV crews and SWAT van he was watching on TV were outside his house until SWAT blew his door off the hinges. That's the third swatting this week!"

Re:What's the point...? (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604050)

Wasn't this sort of prank part of a William Gibson book, "Virtual Light", maybe? Perhaps we'll get some group all up in arms about the dangers of reading books now.

Re:What's the point...? (1)

D'Sphitz (699604) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604052)

Their most common tactic was swatting. Using a commercial caller ID spoofing service called SpoofCard, they'd call police departments around the country with false alarms, triggering tense confrontations between armed cops and the victims, at least two of whom have suffered injuries.

Nice sensationalized story, the kid didn't hack anything but no wai he's blind!!!

Thuggery (5, Insightful)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604074)

This isn't phreaking, it's thuggery. The Coast Guard has a BIG problem with phony emergencies on marine radio, like at it's peak 2 or 3 pranks per week in the SF Bay Area.

When you get caught you are not released to the custody of your parents, they make sure you go to ass-pounding school.

Re:Thuggery (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604204)

Thuggery is the wrong word, it means violent intimidation. This is more along the lines of reckless selfishness.

"Hee hee! I'm so clever! I made you run outside! Hee hee!"

Re:Thuggery (1)

atomicthumbs (824207) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604220)

If you could make boats go where you wanted to from the comfort of your own home, wouldn't you?

Challenge? Why (5, Insightful)

NETHED (258016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603682)

Why is he a challenge? If he broke the law, he broke the law, blind or not.

The justice system should be blind, so who cares if he broke the law.

For this he will (rightfully) be tried as an adult because this kind of behavior can cost real lives. (I'll get modded down for being a troll)

Re:Challenge? Why (5, Interesting)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603750)

The challenge is that he's a disabled juvenile, for which there are likely very few facilities available for the internment thereof.

Re:Challenge? Why (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604066)

If he had a swat team pointing guns at me for a prank, I'd remedy the situation with a baseball bat. I'm sure he can be interned in a hospital bed just fine.

Re:Challenge? Why (3, Interesting)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604218)

As a blind 17-year-old he doesn't pose any special challenge for incarceration, at least no more than a blind 18-year-old or blind 25-year-old would. He'll probably get tried as an adult and sentenced as an adult, and the prison system will deal with him the same as it does any other handicapped inmate. (In other words, chew him up and spit him out.)

Re:Challenge? Why (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604228)

Too bad. Find some place for the arrogant, vindictive, blind sociopath and put him there long enough for him to reconsider the error of his ways. Be sure to note that without the word "blind" stuck in there, you'd have felt no sympathy for him whatsoever.

Might want to think about doing something to the mother, too. According to the article she was aware of his activities and did nothing about it. In fact, it says, she was proud of what he'd learned to do.

Re:Challenge? Why (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604270)

And probably far fewer -- possibly zero -- facilities where he can be denied access to a phone. Disabled people need to be able to contact others for help, but this guy is likely to abuse any such privilege.

You can put kids on trial as if they were adults. I wonder if this guy can be sentenced as if he were non-disabled?

Re:Challenge? Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603912)

No kidding. Apparently he's actually from Boston, so all they need to do is drop some LEDs on him, and presto!, they don't even need to try him, they can just shoot to kill because he'd be a bona-fide terrorist threat!

(What is it about Boston and crazy people anyway? Whenever I hear about Boston, it's because someone is doing something brain-dead stupid, like rooting for the Cheatriots.)

Re:Challenge? Why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604224)

Wow, apparently people from Boston can't take a joke. Sheesh. Sorry, next time I'll use big bold <JOKE> tags. Maybe that would get the point across. Or maybe New Englanders are simply too thick to grasp the concept of a JOKE. Must come from that Puritan heritage.

Re:Challenge? Why (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603936)

I gotta agree with you on this. Whether or not he can see doesn't change the fact that he put innocent lives in danger by doing this. It isn't like the early days of phreaking where you made long distance calls for free. Spoofing calls about an insane gunman is completely justified for this kid to get charged with some sort of crime.
There was another story I read about swatting [] where they wanted the culprit charged with assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment by violence, both by proxy, which are unprecedented, and I have to disagree that he should be charged with those.

Re:Challenge? Why (5, Funny)

electricbern (1222632) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604200)

Well, you see... since justice is also blind, it might be biased when judging his case.

Hmm (4, Insightful)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603698)

I think this is more a sign that the telco's really need to look at phone security. If a teenager can STILL phreak, decades after it started.. Something needs to be done.

Re:Hmm (1)

mamono (706685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603874)

Phreaking may be decades old, but other crimes such as racketeering, wire fraud, bank robbery, etc. are decades, even centuries old. As times progress, crime progresses along with it. If you try using phreaking techniques from decades ago they likely will not work. Likewise, in a few years the telcos will have figured out how to prevent caller ID spoofing. When this happens new tools will be developed for other nefarious deeds.

No, not really (5, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603944)

I mean I don't disagree that we should shoot for better security, but the idea that the problem is that they don't have perfect security is stupid. Not that long ago, within my lifetime, E911 didn't know where you called from, you had to tell them. So phreaking them was as simple as giving a false address. What's more, it had been this ways for DECADES.

So while the telcos should work towards a better identification system, it isn't necessarily the easiest thing in the world to develop and deploy, especially since the phone switches aren't the world's most extensible architecture (new features often mean adding hardware, not just changing code). We have to accept that virtual security is just like physical security: It cannot be perfect and impenetrable. We can have better and worse, but just because a failure is found doesn't mean the security is necessarily bad.

Besides, I see a bigger problem in kids who think this sort of thing is ok to do.

i really don't mind (5, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603710)

if phreakers or hackers target the feds

but please don't target the local law enforcement guys. you're actively denying some poor shlub 911 resources who might need them in a real emergency

that makes you worse than anything you say you are opposing

That's not the problem (5, Insightful)

localroger (258128) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603900)

It's not that the cops are busy with the prank, it's that the cops think they are walking into a violently dangerous situation and conduct themselves accordingly, placing the innocent victims in real danger. It sucks about him being blind but not as much as it would suck to wake up at 2 AM because a bunch of goons have smashed your windows and invaded your home, grab your gun and attempt to defend yourself, and get shot by the cops for your trouble. I have zero sympathy and hope his stay in the pen is as much fun as his pranks are.

Cops always think that way... (0, Flamebait)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603966)

...they have too much power. I hope this kid beats the rap and the abusive powers we have given law enforcement are brought to the attention of the nation.

Your scenario has already happened, and no phreak was involved. Incompetent pigs with too much firepower and the right to bust in with no knocking resulted in the death of a grandmother. They got the wrong house.

I, at least, am not so pants-fillingly scared of the bogeyman that I want my law enforcement to have these powers.

Re:Cops always think that way... (4, Informative)

toddabalsley (1163625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604100)

If you're talking about the event in Atlanta, you've missed a few details.
They had a warrant, it was just obtained with false information from information provided by an informant who was know to be not credible.
The grandmother? She shot at the cops after they broke into her house. The cops were returning fire.

Yeah, the people that falsified information to get the warrant should be put under the jail. But don't lump all cops in with a few genuine baddies. Generally, they have a shitty job that pays poorly, and are doing their best to protect you and me.

there's nothing wrong with attacking police abuses (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604158)

but there's something really wrong with attacking the notion of policework itself

"the abusive powers we have given law enforcement"

we give them those powers only because there are guys out there who happily use those powers to do evil things. these people are not police at all. they are something far worse. do you understand that? you don't sound like you do. it seems like in your mind, the worst thing out there are the police themselves. which is kind of insane

its impossible to police this world without those powers you think police shouldn't have

read that again. make sure that simple obvious reality sinks in

policing is a human endeavour. meaning, police make mistakes. also meaning: evil assholes can wind up in the system and do evil things while wearing a uniform

and when that happens, you fix the mistakes, and you prosecute the abusive assholes

but you don't attack the notion of policework itself!

you have some sort of mental problem if you think attacking the idea of policing itself and the power they need to do their jobs has any value or meaning in a sane discussion about police

its obvious you don't like the police. that simply means you have an irrational bias and are slightly unhinged when it comes to your ability to understand and intelligently comment on reality

Re:Cops always think that way... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604172)

Still pissed about getting busted for that bag of weed, huh?

Re:Cops always think that way... (3, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604194)

They shouldn't have that power for arbitrary reasons. I would agree with you on that. But I don't think they should go after an armed robber and rapist who has already killed with a flashlight and mace. They need the powers when the situation presents itself.

That being said, I think they are using when it isn't necessary. And I think they are overly careless with it by getting the wrong houses and all. I don't think I read about the grandmother being shot down but I do remember a situation in Arizona (I think) where not only did they get the wrong house, but managed to catch it on fire and made the family watch their dog trapped on the second floor get burnt alive while hand cuffed and mocked on the front yard. A neighbor over heard a cop ask another if they should call the fire department in yet, and the reply was they don't deserve to have their shit saved.

This tells me that the cops did the swatt approach with the intent of somehow punishing the suspect in the process of his capture. They didn't even have enough competence to get the right house in the process. So yes, there is abuse. But I think instead of taking the tool away from them, they should have strict guidelines in when to use it, how it is used, with accountability for getting it wrong and hurting or damaging an innocent person. I don't think a telephone book lawsuit is enough, criminal charges and loss of job should be on the line for abuses and wrong houses and all.

Re:Cops always think that way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604212)

You're confusing how much power local law enforcement have with how they exercise it. What's your solution, replace their arms with a baton and a whistle?

Re:Cops always think that way... (4, Insightful)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604296)

...they have too much power. I hope this kid beats the rap and the abusive powers we have given law enforcement are brought to the attention of the nation.

You are missing the point. This has nothing to do with cops power, even if I agree that it might be excessive. This has everything to do with a person finding a way to direct that power in an illegal and dangerous manner. It'd be like finding a way to send powerful surges of electricity to your house and damaging your electronics -- you wouldn't blame the electric company for the problem, even if they were responsible for a system in which such a surge was possible.

Re:i really don't mind (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603946)

The target = the family who is getting busted in on by SWAT, in a dangerous and traumatic fashion, not the local cops.

Re:i really don't mind (1)

ma1wrbu5tr (1066262) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604166)

Fuckin' A. These tactics are hardly worth being called a "hack". Someone needs to spank his little blind ass. Maybe if someone had, he'd fucking know better. If I caught my teen doing this, I'd likely break my foot off in his ass. Li'l SOB, where are your parents? Or are they just hippy/liberal do-gooders as I suspect?

Goatse! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603716)

Stevie Wonder (2)

spazmolytic666 (549909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603734)

Just like this kid, Stevie Wonder is blind and gifted. This kid send swat teams to innocent people's houses. Stevie made songs in the key of life. What is the FBIs "unique challenge" with putting the kid away?

Re:Stevie Wonder (1)

deft (253558) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603868)

Maybe they have to first come up with some unique way to tie the fact this kids blind as loosely as possibly to blind (but otherwise completely unrelated) celebrities to make their case.

Now that would be a challenge.

Not a challenge for you, but for the fed. You're obviously good at it.

Re:Stevie Wonder (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604266)

It might be where to put him away at. Are there any prison's for juvenile blind offenders? And if there are, does the juvenile codes make it a slap on the hand? And after all that, are you going to be able to convince a jurry that a blind kid is able to find, learn, and adapt something they are going to be struggling to understand when it gets presented as evidence?

Thank Ma Bell (4, Interesting)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603736)

Because the phone system was originally a monopoly, it is not designed for network security. This is an example. PBX's can be programmed to report any originating phone number. I don't know the type of line that the swatter was using, but trusting the source to report the caller ID is due to AT&T not having to worry about connecting foreign equipment.

Re:Thank Ma Bell (2, Insightful)

tehdely (690619) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603886)

Equally retarded is trusting caller ID for a 911 call.

ANI exists for a reason.

I suspect this kid was spoofing ANI (which is possible if you have the right kind of PSTN termination; it's not a hack, christ). If he was spoofing CID and actually managed to send the SWAT team to some peoples' houses, some E911 centers really need to review their policies.

Re:Thank Ma Bell (4, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604076)

I see this as less of a caller ID issue and more of a classic 911-prank issue.

If the caller ID were not available, or were from a cellphone, or didn't make sense, or whatever else, the 911 responder would still have been obliged to send emergency personnel. If a call sounds legit (and often even if it doesn't), the police will respond, regardless of what caller ID says. Ultimately this was a dangerous prank and should be treated as such.

The caller ID spoofing merely means that it took a bit longer to track down the prankster. You might argue that the insecurity of caller ID gave the prankster the guts to make a fake call in the first place. But then again, pranksters can use pay phones if they want anonymity. In any case the police will respond to the call.

prison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603744)

Let all the gay niggers in prison rape his monkey ass while yelling "swat this!!"

Of Party Lines, SWATing and Other Childish Things (1)

Mickyfin613 (1192879) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603746)

50% of this so called "phreaking" sounds like childish playground antics and textbook bullying straight from middle school. The other 50% are con jobs and social engineering. I don't see any great hacks there.

Crimes where the criminal gains somethig I can sort of understand. This whole misplaced teenage angst and messing with the system because I can get back at some associates is just so pathetic.

I'm not just talking about the 14 year old blind kid. Doesn't take a rocket-psychologist to figuire out what he's mad about, but the other punks ont he "party lines"?

Grow up. Get a real job. Move out of Moms basement. Oh and 1982 called, they want your "Phreak Club" back.

Re:Of Party Lines, SWATing and Other Childish Thin (1)

kingmetal (1245586) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603898)

I agree with everything you said except the "moving out of your parents basement" bit. He is 14, we must remember.

Re:Of Party Lines, SWATing and Other Childish Thin (1)

Buran (150348) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604140)

No, he isn't. He's 17. And certainly old enough to understand that what he is doing is wrong and the severity of it. A 13-year-old can understand that.

He may be blind (1)

tehdely (690619) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603770)

But he's no Joybubbles [] .

Actual audio clip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603782)

... sounded like this:


The Feds thought it was some secret Al-Queda code at first.

Yikes! (4, Insightful)

Rary (566291) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603788)

When I was a kid and used to phreak..... um, I mean, when I heard about people doing this..... it was all about connecting to long-distance BBSes for free and downloading games. What this kid is doing is just sick.

There's hackers/crackers/phreaks, and then there's people who are just plain assholes.

Re:Yikes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604232)

The problem with these "jokes" is that whenever someone things one is funny and enjoy it, is encouraging to a new more developed one.
br. Tha game goes on, until someone, like this kid, does something really stupid thinking he's going to look "cool".

phreaker isn't only one liable. (1, Troll)

JetScootr (319545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603792)

I've felt for a long time (since I began to understand Windows security issues) that whenever a teenager is caught for hacking/phreaking/whathavu, that TWO entities should be prosecuted:
1> the teenybopper;
2> The company that designed a digital infrastructure so insecure that a teenybopper could hack in and cause those zillions of dollars damage they always claim at trial.

So... (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604058)

If I break in to your house, and make no mistake I could easily do so, should you be prosecuted for not having secured your house well enough? Because unless you have extraordinarily good security, it really isn't hard to get by. You think a pin-tumbler lock and a simple alarm system do anything? Get real, trivial to get around. So should you be held accountable if I break the law and get in to your house just because you don't have superb security?

I am just trying to understand here, because on /. there seems to be this attitude with regards to digital security that if you can do it, it should be ok to do. It is all on the person who owns the system to make it completely invenerable. So I'm just wondering if you feel the same way about physical security, since I can say with 99.99999% certainty, yours sucks (since almost everyone's does). If you don't feel the same about it, why not? Why should it be ok to break in to a computer but not a house?

Re:phreaker isn't only one liable. (2, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604196)

I don't think that would be a useful legal trend. First of all, every security device (from software to padlocks to alarm systems) is imperfect. They will all fail at a certain point. They are marketed as providing a level of security: not infinite security.

Secondly, laws like that would only discourage companies from even trying. In the physical world, no company would be willing to undertake the legal liability for selling padlocks. In software, no company would be willing to sell security software (or any software at all if the law applied broadly). Alternately, software would cost a fortune (the liability insurance would be built-in). This would also kill free/open-source software, since they would have no way to pay for the liability insurance and legal bills that would result from a compromised vulnerability.

Ultimately the people in charge of data/computers must be the ones held responsible. If you store top secret files in a cheap file cabinet, it's not the fault of the file-cabinet maker when someone breaks the lock and steals the files. Similarly if a company poorly implements security software, that is their fault... not the software vendor's.

sigh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603800)

Not a single intelligent comment thus far.

Oh christ. This is NOT phreaking... (5, Informative)

Chas (5144) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603804)

Calling up and making prank calls isn't phreaking.

Even spoofing Caller ID, while a possible phreaking tool, is now common enough today that it's trivial for almost anyone to do.

This is just some stupid punk kid making an ass out of himself and cost the police time and taxpayers money.

This is equal to screaming fire in a crowded theater.

Again, making prank calls to the police and emergency services is stupid, not phreaking.

Re:Oh christ. This is NOT phreaking... (4, Informative)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604222)

Even spoofing Caller ID, while a possible phreaking tool, is now common enough today that it's trivial for almost anyone to do.

E911 doesn't use Caller ID. It uses the same set of signals that the phone company uses for billing, which are much harder to spoof.

Re:Oh christ. This is NOT phreaking... (4, Interesting)

_14k4 (5085) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604252)

Please mod the parent up as high as it can go.

Having toyed with the telephone networks, back when it was "cool" to do when you were bored with irc... I know the difference between learning something new about the latest release of audix and making prank phone calls.

A decade later, as a volunteer fireman; looking at the weather report for tonight - forecast 10inches... I would like to think that the calls I go out on tonight are legit and not some punk kid making prank calls. Yes, my fridge is running. As a lieutenant, too, I would like to think that my men (and one manly woman) are rolling for legit reasons, too.

Skillz! (1, Interesting)

sinserve (455889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603808)

How many of you haven't done regrettable shit when you were 17? blind or otherwise, the kid is just being normal. When I was 17 I could hack into the library computers to renew material that was due for return. Sadly, I did that from the library's public computers, as my PC at home was not wired yet, and all my hack did for me was "save" me the effort to get up and get in line (forget the time it takes to run netware utils from a floppy and get to work, all while switching back and forth to a benign browser window every time somebody walked by). if I was caught then it would have been a hacking case.

Normal? Bullsh*t. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603918)

" kid is just being normal. When I was 17 I could hack into the library..."

Hacking into the library does not have the resulting possibility of getting someone shot (fake hostage calls, etc.) or diverting emergency resources to places where they are not needed.

One is extremely sociopathic and criminal, the other isn't.

The fact that you can't distinguish between the two leads me to believe you may be in the former category.

Re:Skillz! (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603926)

Regrettable shit is blaming something on your sister, or ordering a stack of pizzas to someone else's house, not tying the fucking SWAT team up on a spurious call.

Re:Skillz! (1)

sinserve (455889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604202)

Of course they're not the same, but I just would have been charged with manslaughter easily if I hit someone while driving like an idiot. Today I'm on of the most careful and defensive drivers on the road, haven't got a ticket if five years (moving violation or even a parking ticket), but in my teens I was easily pressured by friends to do stunts, often with THEIR cars mind you, and there are many kids who drive around and smoke pot or drink while cruising around. The thought of hitting someone never crosses their mind; all they're thinking about is being "kewl".

This kid has to be disciplined and put in his place, but not with draconian terrorism charges or some shit they pulled out of their make-an-example-of-someone ass.

Re:Skillz! (2, Informative)

ChinggisK (1133009) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603950)

Renewing your library books wasn't taking away life-or-death police resources that someone else might actually need.

Re:Skillz! (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603998)

How many of you haven't done regrettable shit when you were 17?

I did regrettable shit as a kid, but none of it put peoples' lives in danger. None of it carried the substantial risk of property damage which the target would have to pay. None if it could have resulted in someone being arrested, even long enough for the cops to find out.

Re:Skillz! (3, Insightful)

Itninja (937614) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604096)

Totally. Like this one time I haxored in my neighbors wireless router and then threatened someones life using their network. When the SWAT team showed up and cuffed my neighbor it was TEH AWESOME! Oh, wait, that never happened because I'm not a monster.

Re:Skillz! (1)

Buran (150348) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604188)

I'm really surprised that it was necessary to hack the library computer to renew books. Sounds like your local library computers were badly programmed. I have a book that's due on Monday and if I don't finish it by Monday morning, I can legitimately log in and renew the item.

At least... (4, Insightful)

Artaxs (1002024) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603858)

In this particular story at least, no one was killed. Considering just how often SWAT teams kill innocents [] with their no-knock, shoot-first tactics, this kid is lucky he hasn't been implicated in a wrongful death (yet).

It seems to me that there is a big difference between phone phreaking to get free long-distance calls and spoofing phone numbers to bring SWAT down on an innocent family.

Identifying Juvenile (5, Insightful) (197454) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603872)

Wired is so kind not to identify the juvenile...

  1. East Boston
  2. 17 Years Old
  3. Named Matthew
  4. Blind

Thanks to this reporting, anyone who knows him now knows what he did. This will follow him around forever.

Wired could have at least left the first name out and kept the story intact.

Re:Identifying Juvenile (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603960)

If he did what he is alleged to have done, I'm not sure I see much of a problem with it following him around forever.

Re:Identifying Juvenile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604020)

You forgot to mention:

5. Mother's name is Amy Kahloul

The kid is an unthinking asshole and possibly deserves to have this follow him around forever.

Re:Identifying Juvenile (1)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604300)

The phone companies were also still on the case. Referring to Matt by his initials, because of his underage status, Lynd wrote, "I was contacted multiple times by employees of both AT&T and Verizon and was told that the illegal activity was continuing and was now being orchestrated by M.W. and other unindicted co-conspirators."
  1. East Boston
  2. 17 years old
  3. Named Matthew
  4. Blind
  5. Last name starts with W

The good ole days (5, Insightful)

cgfsd (1238866) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603876)

What ever happened to the good ole days where phreaking used to mean getting free long distance, free sex chat line and messing with the phone company?

Sending a SWAT team to someone's random house is not a juvenile prank, someone could easily get shot.

Now having a gay 1-900 line call a buddy back and thank him for his business, now that is a prank.

Stick to free 1-900 calls and messing with phone switches. Think before sending heavily armed, trigger happy police into a perceived hostile environment.

...the Matrix has you... (5, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603880)

Though he may seem like just an ordinary blind 17 year old, he is considered by many to be the most dangerous man alive. If you help us apprehend a known felon, we'll just clear away your record... give you a fresh start.

Amazing (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603902)

If he really is the culprit I give him props for being resourceful.
Since all the switches are computerized nowadays I'd figure that a lot of todays phreaking is done with computers which really makes it more like hacking.
I assume computers are a little easier to use with sight.
The sad thing is that if this type of talent is used for good the possibilities are endless.
What he did was wrong and should be punished if he infact did it.

Blind Phreakers? (1)

alex_vegas (891476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603972)

Wasn't there some really famous trio of blind Palestinian phreakers? Clearly, blindness should be outlawed, as it leads to anti-social behavior.

Re:Blind Phreakers? (1)

zakeria (1031430) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604110)

I guess seeing is believing.

just lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603982)

About 10 years ago (I was 13 then), I had a list of Telenet numbers and PADs. I would hook a phone into my my modem, dial the local Telenet number, put in a PAD for a global outdial, pick up the phone and get a ringtone. then i could call anywhere for free. This is just prank calling to the next level.

This guy is no Cap'n Crunch, just a cuntbiscuit.

happens in dallas (1)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#22603994)

This has happened a few times in Dallas, pretty amusing but pretty dangerous too.

On a related note, The crew that filmed Dallas SWAT use to hang out at a coffee shop I frequent and they said more often then not when they got deployed it was to a vacant house or the wrong address. It was amusing hearing stories about late night raids on an address that didn't exist or empty houses/buildings.

They ARE giving out his last name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22603996)

They say they aren't - then they go ahead and mention his mother's name; both first and last. Presumably, his will be the same. It isn't necessary of course, but....

Not entirely unique... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604012)

First off, what a dick. Swatting is not cool. (Phone phreaking in general is though.) OK now that that's out of the way...

          He's not entirely unique. One of the early phone phreakers was Joe "The Whistler" Engressia. Since he had perfect pitch, he could replicate the 2600 tone at will, and could do quite a bit of phone preaking entirely unassisted (that is, no whistles, tone generators, etc.) I would guess the blind would be higher than average likelihood to phreak; since it's entirely audio-based, being blind would be no impediment to phreaking like it would for, say, sports, going out cruising for chicks, and the conventional computing that most people do that are bad at sports and chick-cruising.

Re:Not entirely unique... (1)

jsailor (255868) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604164)

Not to mention the Whistler character from the movie "Sneakers"

Wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22604036)

...and quickly rose to become one of the most skilled active phreakers alive
Is this an article or a biography

Interesting... (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604054)

From the summary:

If he's guilty, the attack is at once the least sophisticated and most malicious of a string of capers linked to Matt, who stumbled into the lingering remains of the decades-old subculture of phone phreaking when he was 14, and quickly rose to become one of the most skilled active phreakers alive.

Now isn't that interesting? Least sophisticated and most malicious, at the same time? And this from someone who is "one of the most skilled active phreakers alive"?

This is sounding a lot like a frame-up job.

Caller ID or ANI ? (1)

tetranz (446973) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604084)

Shouldn't the emergency services be using ANI [] rather than caller ID?

This is phreaking how? (1)

Ritchie70 (860516) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604114)

Companies routinely make caller ID lie to people they call. There are services that you can pay to do this. There are legitimate business reasons for it.

Now, granted, he may be making the ANI lie instead of the caller ID. Although I don't personally have any idea how to do that, I suspect it isn't real hard either.

So what we have here is a 17 year old Bart Simpson, only he's calling Chief Wiggum instead of Moe, and he's putting people's lives at risk.

I don't care if he's blind - that doesn't get him some sort of special pass to endanger others. He should be arrested, prosecuted, and, if convicted, sentenced in the exact same fashion as if he had sight.

Here's an idea (1, Insightful)

British (51765) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604192)

Now call me crazy on this one: Don't send SWAT teams based on a FUCKING PHONE CALL. Why would any law enforcement arm be so dumb as to send an army to a house based on a phone call. You would think the cops would be wise as to think maybe not everyonw who calls is honest.

You would think they have enough surveillance & snoop equipment to look into a house they've got a call on to find the house empty, or have no struggle going on.

Can't they just send one officer instead of a whole SWAT team, why not just send one officer in to kindly inquire? That's what they do for prank/hangup 911 calls. This may sound sick, but it would better if 1 cop perished on an actual call than a whole terrorized family from a SWAT team. They put their lives on the line while the families don't.

This reminds me of the gullible managers at a McDonalds that were supposedly called by "police", instructing to strip serach & molest an employee. Haven't we had telephones long enough to realize the other end might not be honest. Proof, evidence, heard of 'em?

The SWAT teams/dispatchers could have solved this problem ages ago. 9/11 isn't some sort of excuse to say "oh we can't take any chances" and turn a family into swiss cheese.

What a loser (2, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604238)

Sorry if you have an ocular deficite, but thats still no reason to fuck with other people.

What he did relates to "phreaking" like burning down a server rack relates to "hacking".

There is a word for that kind of people. Its "sociopaths". Dont believe me? Look it up.

Pretexting (2, Informative)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604262)

Complicating matters in Matt's case is that there's no federal law against pretext phone calls. So in court filings in related cases, the feds have invented a novel legal theory just for the blind hacker. Matt, they argue, violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by persuading phone company workers to access their computers on his behalf. He hacked by proxy, using his voice instead of a computer.
That may be where the complications arise, either that or he was used as an informant by the FBI to prosecute other swatters. Either way he turns 18 in April so they won't have to see if they can try him as a minor.

why is this challenge against the courts "unique" (1)

the_wesman (106427) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604272)

from the summary...

"His first name is Matthew, and he poses a unique challenge to the federal justice system, because he is blind from birth. "

Why is this a unique challenge for the justice system? Haven't blind people committed/been accused of/been tried for crimes in the past? I'm confused.

I think the summarizer just wanted to mention that he's blind and couldn't think of a better way to do it. Crappy writing if you ask me.


Are you serious? (1)

d3l33t (1106803) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604290)

A blind prankster? What a phreak!

What would Chuck do? (1)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 6 years ago | (#22604306)

If you tried to phone freak Chuck Norris he'd roundhouse kick you through the receiver.
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