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jargon /freek'ing/ "phone phreak" 1. The art and science of
cracking the telephone 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).
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
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.