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Blind phone phreaker coughs to harassment charges

Swatting menace faces long stretch

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A legally blind phone phreaker has admitted prank phonecall and hacking charges.

Matthew Weigman, 18, of Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to two felony charges last week at a Dallas hearing. Judge Paul D Stickney was told Weigman (aka Li'l Hacker) was a notorious figure in the telephone "party line" hacking scene prior to his arrest, last May.

He used his knowledge of the telephone systems and skills at social engineering to trick phone company employees into entering commands at his bidding. Weigman has been interested in telephones since he was eight, yet has applied his knowledge not for the benefit of society - nor himself, for that matter - but to put one over on other phone phreakers.

Weigman admitted conspiring together with his cohorts to make false distress calls that would trick police into sending SWAT teams over to the homes of rival crews. This is more than a straightforward prank call, because the caller line identity is spoofed using hacking techniques. The practice is known as swatting in the digital underground.

The teenager also admitted dialling into a line reserved by supervisors on Sprint and listen into customer support calls. Credit details memorised by Weigman during these calls were passed onto accomplices who used the information to purchase electronic gear and computers.

Weigman became the target of a federal investigation in 2005, aged just 15, when he sent a police SWAT team over to the Colorado house of a TSA screener whose daughter refused to participate in phone sex sessions with the teenage miscreant. The Feds considered using Weigman as an informant, but the deal fell through after investigators discovered he was hacking AT&T on the side. His handler at the time said he couldn't go three days without attempting a hack of one sort or another.

The charges against Weigman stem from a battle with Verizon security investigator William Smith starting last April, a month after he turned 18. Weigman had used the details of a Dallas woman to pay for the phone bill of the Boston apartment he shared with his mother and sister. Smith cancelled the account, triggering a battle of wills that escalated to include harassment and intimidation.

Weigman faces a sentencing hearing scheduled for 24 April, where he faces a possible maximum of 13 years' imprisonment under a plea-bargaining agreement.

Wired has links to clips from Weigman's prank calls and more background on the case here. ®

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