phreak (frêk) noun
A person who breaks into, or cracks, telephone networks or other secured systems. In the 1970s, the telephone system used audible tones as switching signals, and phone phreaks used homebrew hardware to match the tones and steal long-distance service. homebrew. Compare cracker, hacker.
phreak (frêk) verb
To break into or crack phone networks or computer systems.
phreaker /freek'r/ n.
One who engages in phreaking. See also blue box.
phreaking /freek'ing/ n.
[from `phone phreak'] 1. The art and science of cracking the phone 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) (cracking).
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.
- _The New Hacker's Dictionary_ by Eric S. Raymond
Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag in the early days of SST records ca. 1980: "Brendan Mullen did us a favor. He gave us a phone-card number; someone at U.S. Sprint had given it to him and said to have at it. He was in a good position at U.S. Sprint — they were just starting out, no one was policing it. So we had at it. I called everybody, all the time! I was on the phone from 9 in the morning until 11 to 12 at night."
personnel: Dino Psaras, Steve Ronan, M. Goren, A. Elgrana