Paris Hilton Accused of Phone Phreakiness
You may have read the story from a while back about how hackers broke into socialite Paris Hilton's cell phone account and posted online racy pictures of the hotel heiress stolen from her mobile device (turns out the perpetrators were the same people accused of hacking into consumer database giant LexisNexis last year). But could it be that Hilton herself has begun using some of the same hacker tactics leveraged against her in personal attacks against others?
So says SpoofCard.com, a company that offers "spoofing" services that let people fake the number that appears in the recipient's caller ID display. The company's lawyer, Mark Del Bianco, says Hilton was among some 50 customers whose accounts were suspended for allegedly using Spoofcard's service to break into other peoples' voice mail accounts and listen to their private messages or alter their outgoing messages. Spoofcard said it discovered the violation "while reviewing its customer call records for evidence of fraud and other prohibited conduct."
Several cell-phone providers rely on caller ID to verify that someone checking a voice mail account is calling from the account holder's mobile handset. Sprint, Cingular and T-Mobile all allow consumers to turn off or bypass the passcode-checking function used to safeguard access to voice mail. Del Bianco wouldn't say which wireless provider was the target of all these attacks, but based on previous reporting it is clear that Hilton has been a longtime customer of T-Mobile, and that is likely the target network involved here.
According to Spoofcard, actress Lindsay Lohan was among those whose voice mail accounts were broken into. Del Bianco declined to name other victims or alleged perpetrators, but added that many of the terminated customers and victims whose mailboxes were accessed are celebrities. The company does not plan to press charges against anyone involved, Del Bianco said, but he added that the company would refer the matter to federal authorities if requested to do so.
While faking your caller ID number is not a crime (yet), faking it so that you can break into someone else's voice mail box is. Under Section 2701 of the Federal Stored Wire and Electronic Communications Act, gaining unauthorized access to another person's voicemail and messages is a federal offense punishable by fines and up to five years in prison.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would make it a crime to maliciously falsify the caller ID information as seen by the recipient of a phone call.
I contacted Hilton's publicist about this news, but am still awaiting a reply, although the AOL-affiliated entertainment-news site TMZ.com reported that her rep has denied the accusation. I will update the blog if Hilton's folks get back to me.
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