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TUCoPS :: Privacy :: phreaksr.txt

Rights to telecomm privacy. READ THIS!

From TAP Jan-Feb 1984  Issue #90
The hobbyists newsletter for the Commun
ications Revolution
Article: Your Rights as a Phone Phreak
By Fred Steinbeck
"Oh, I'm not worried.  They can't tap m
y line without a court order."  Ever 
catch yourself saying that?  If so, I'l
l wager you don't know too much about 
the laws that can prove to be the downf
all of many a phone phreak.  But you are
wagering your freedom and money that yo
u do know.  Odds are you don't.  At 
least, I didn't, and I had a very painf
ul experience finding out.
        Let's take a look at Federal la
w first.  Section 605 of Title 47 of the
United States Code (i.e., Federal law) 
forbids interception of communications, 
or divulgence of intercepted communicat
ions, except by persons outlined in 
Chapter 119, Title 18 (a portion of the
 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets 
act of 1968).  Section 2511 (2) (a) (i)
 of this section says:
        "It shall not be unlawful under
 this chapter for an operator of a 
switchboard, or an officer, employee, o
r agent of any communication common car-
rier, whose facilities are used in the 
transmission of a wire communication, to
intercept, disclose, or use that commun
ication in the normal course of his em-
ployment while engaged in any activity 
which is a necessary incident to the 
rendition of his service or to the prot
ection of the ri
hts or property of the 
carrier of such communication...."
        The authorization stated in tha
t subsection permits agents of communi-
cation common carriers (i.e. Telcos) no
t only to intercept wire communications
where necessary "to the protection of t
he rights or property of the carrier",
but it also authorizes such an agent to
 "disclose or use that communication."
Fun, huh?  That's not all.
        In the case United States v. Su
gden, a case which was upheld by the 
Supreme Court, the following ruling was
"For and unreasonable search and seizur
e to result from the interception of 
defendant's communication, he must have
 exhibited a reasonable expectation of
privacy.  Where, as here, one uses a co
mmunication facility illegally, no such
expectation is exhibited."
This means that when you make a free ca
ll, you have waived your right to priv-
acy.  In other words, without pay, your
 rights evaporate.
        The only limitation upon monito
ring and disclosure is that it must not 
be excessive.  For example, in Bubis v.
 United States, the phone company monit-
ored all of the defendant's phone calls
 for a period of 4 months.  The defend-
ant's gambling activities were revealed
 by this monitoring, and furnished to 
the U>S> Attorney's office.  This resul
ted in the defendant bein prosecuted by 
the District Attorney for violation of 
the federal laws against using inter-
state telephone facilities for gambling
.  The court acknowledged the right of 
the phone company to protect its ass(et
s) and properties against the illegal
acts of a trespasser, but ordered the e
vidence supressed cecause :
(1) The extent of the monitoring was un
(2) The defendant's prosecution for vio
lation of the gambling laws had "no re-
lationship to protecting the telephone 
company's property."
        This was before the Omnibus act
.  As it happens, though, the Omnibus 
act was intended to prflect exsisting l
aw, and therefore, change nothing
(pretty good huh?).  In United States v
. Shah the court said (refering to the 
situation of inadmissible evidence in U
.S v. Bubis), "Thus it would appear that
if the tape recordings of the defendant
's conversations had been limited by the
phone company to establish that the cal
ls were in violation of the subscription
agreement (i.e. were illegal) and to th
e identification of the person using the
n the tapes would have been admissible
against the defendant."  The court went
 on to say that this was indeed the case
in United States v. Shah, as the phone 
company only monitored for 7 days, and
the tapes were of 1 minute call duratio
n at the beginning of any illegal call.
        So what can the do?  Well, seve
ral things.  First, they can put a dial-
ed number recorder (DNR) on your line i
f they suspect toll fraud.  The most
common can do the followiing: print tou
ch-tone (c) digits sent, print MF digits
sent, record presence of 2600hz on line
, and activate a tape recorder for a 
specific amout of time (generally 1-2 m
in) when some specific event occures,
such as 2600hz being blasted into the l
        DNR's seem to be fairly standar
d procedure.  That is, almost all the 
Telcos use them when they suspect fraud
.  As long as they do not record the en-
tire conversation, or conversations tha
t are legal, there is nothing illegal 
about DNR's.  DNR's are also used to de
tect fraud using specialized common car-
riers (e.g.,Sprint, Metro etc.),by watc
hing you dial the local dialup number, 
followed by your (illegal) access code 
and destination number.  They do not 
need a court order to place a DNR on yo
ur line.
        If they can record voice on you
r line, they can record data just as
easily.  So if you call bulletin board 
systems and have a DNR on your line, be
aware that any logins you have made hav
e probably been watched by the phone
company, and they probably know any pas
swords you have used.
        The purpose behing all this DNR
 bullshit is to establish your identity.
I suppose a possible defense against th
is is simply not to talk for 3 minutes 
after the connection is established.  M
ight be kind of hard to do in practice,
        Contrary to popular belief, TPC
 does not make "midnight visits" to your
house to arrest you.  Why should they? 
 A judicious application of their motto,
"Reach out and put the touch on someone
", means that they simply call from 
their office.  If they call, try to dra
w them out as much as possible in a 
phone conversation.  That is, they will
 ekep muttering about how they "have ev-
idenc".  Find out what kind of evidence
.  Do not expect them to be forthcoming 
with everything.  They will almost cert
ainly have more than what they tell you.
        Their standard position is to p
rosecute all offenders, although this 
varies depending on the severity of the
 situation, as well as the age of the 
offender.  They tend to always prosecut
e adults, while they are receptive to
pre-trial offers made by juveniles.  Th
ey may want to talk with you in person,
ostensibly to give you a chance to expl
ain why the 300 calls to the local 
Sprint node came from your line.  Accep
t this offer.  Often they are more gen-
erous with their evidence in person tha
n they are over the telephone.
        If you do meet with them in per
son, BRING A LAWYER.  Lawyers are expen-
sive, but they are well worth the price
.  They know the law, while you don't. 
The investigators TPC employs are seaso
ned people, and usually make few mis-
takes, legal or technical.  However, a 
good lawyer can spot any legal fuckups 
they might have made, and you shoud be 
able to find any technical ones.
        In talking with them, be civil 
(i.e., say hello, talk about the weather
etc.) but say nothing pertinent to your
 case.  They will often tell a large 
part of their evidence without any prod
ding, and at the end, will ask you some
        At the very first signs of trou
ble, stop making free calls, and move 
anything illegal you have to a friend's
 house.  They may not get a search war-
rant, but better safe than sorry.
        TPC can make life miserable for
 you, and they don't often prosecute un-
less they're sure of winning, which is 
pretty much always.  Therefore, you must
make it either not worth their while to
 prosecute, or worth their while not to
prosecute.  The best bet is to try to g
et them to settle before going to court 
by offering reimbursement and being nic
e to them (act sorry).  If you appear 
genuinely sorry, they may not prosecute
        Failing that, be a low-down bas
tard and make as much trouble for them 
in court as possible.  Just remember: t
echnology is on your side, and thatss 
better than God.
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