PBXs prey to phreakers
International criminals are breaking into telephone PBXs in Barbados and costing companies thousands of dollars annually.
Authoritative sources in the communications industry say these culprits, known as phreakers, are using sophisticated equipment to crack loopholes in telephone systems. Call centres, hotel chains and corporate Barbados are among their targets.
Although the extent and costs associated with this criminal activity is unknown, sources told the SUNDAY SUN it could well run into hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
When contacted about the issue, a spokesperson from Cable & Wireles, the lone provider of such services in the island, acknowledged that the problem was “real”.
“LIME is aware that these instances of fraud occur where persons hack into these systems and dial international destinations such as Sierra Leone, Lithuania and Liechtenstein,” LIME said in a statement.
“As far back as 2009, we have written to our customers to alert them of the activity and to encourage them to be vigilant and to periodically update the security of their systems. We also ask them to pay close attention to their bills to be able to stamp out early, any activity by these hackers,” the statement concluded.
Telephone PBXs have been transformed in design and utility over the years and are now primarily computer systems, said TeleBarbados network architect Steven Harrison. Harrison said the change in technology used has meant that there are several ways a PBX has to be secured and consequently more options for Phreakers to break into a telephone system.
“This challenge requires highly trained engineers to monitor traffic going across a telephone network. At TeleBarbados, the quality of our support monitoring staff and the security of our systems have protected our customers from this type of network invasion,” Harrison noted.
Computer hacking is a far more publicized criminal activity than telephone phreaking, but the latter can be far more costly than viruses. An industry source noted that costs associated with phreaking cannot be easily written off since international telecommunication carriers are involved.
Hence, PBX phreaking should be regarded by companies and Government as a matter of major concern.
Although PBX hacking can be done locally it usually requires sophisticated computer systems which are programmed to search for loopholes and information. It also requires that criminals have highly technical knowledge.
Assistant Superintendent John Maxwell, in charge of the Fraud Squad of the Royal Barbados Police Force, said his department was not aware of this type of activity. (HH/CPG)