Feeds

Phone phreaks spoof LSD-induced multiple homicide

Dial-a-SWAT-team

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Three more individuals have admitted they participated in a series of phone phreak hoaxes that prompted raids by armed special weapons and tactic police teams on the homes of unsuspecting victims.

Jason Trowbridge, of Louisiana and Texas, and Chad Ward of Texas pleaded guilty to multiple felonies, including conspiracy, access device fraud and unauthorized access of a protected computer. Each faces maximum penalties of five years in prison, fines of $250,000 and costs for restitution.

As previously reported, Stuart Rosoff also pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the pranks, which over a course of almost five years snared more than 100 victims and resulted in as much as $250,000 in losses, according to court documents. Angela Roberson, who was charged alongside the trio, also entered a guilty plea but court documents did not elaborate.

A sentencing hearing for Trowbridge is scheduled for late February. Hearings for Ward and Roberson are scheduled for mid March.

Swatters, as the malicious pranksters are referred to, use a combination of social engineering, phone phreaking prowess and computer hacking to spoof the phone numbers of individuals they want to harass. They then make emergency calls to police departments and report crimes in progress, in many cases prompting a response from SWAT teams who conduct emergency raids on the homes of people whose numbers were spoofed.

In many cases, the victims were fellow participants in telephone party lines, which largely act as the phone equivalent of internet relay chat groups. Trowbridge, who went by the names "Jason from California" and "John from California," furthered the scheme by mining personal information about the victims from a host of sources, including consumer reporting agencies, pizza delivery records and newspaper subscription records, according to court documents signed by the defendant.

The personal information Trowbridge provided allowed the gang to make fake emergency calls that had the ring of authenticity. In one case, they posed as an Alvarado, Texas man whose daughter was a party line participant. They told a police dispatcher that he had shot and killed members of his family and was armed with an AK47 machine gun. The caller, who claimed to be high on hallucinogenic drugs, then threatened to kill his remaining hostages unless he was given $50,000 and safe passage out of the country.

Police responded by sending police to the residence of the real man.

In September of last year, Ward himself was swatted by members of the gang. But just a month later, as he admitted in court documents filed last month, he offered money to anyone who would carry out a Swat attack on the Alvarado family. Ward, who went by the name "Dark Angel," also confessed to obtaining personal information on victims by socially engineering telephone company employees.

The documents provide other colorful details. Among them, Rosoff threatened to have the phone service of a Cheboygan, Michigan woman disconnected unless she agreed to provide him with phone sex. When she refused, Rosoff used social engineering to terminate her phone service. He also made false reports to police claiming the woman's children were being abused and discussed ways of having her falsely arrested.

During the course of the conspiracy - which lasted from late 2002 to June of this year and involved as many as 20 individuals - the participants also initiated calls to employers, landlords, families and friends of party line members they held a grudge against. Some of the members who refused to stop using the line found their friends and families swatted.

The case was investigated by the FBI field office in Dallas and prosecuted the the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas.®

Please send tips regarding this or other hacking-related stories to Dan Goodin by following this link.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.