Saturday, December 17, 2005

Terror Calls Collect

Disclaimer for the humourless: this blog and blogger unreservedly condemn terrorism in all its forms. Especially attacks on our communications security.

But having had many bad dealings with Rogers customer service and dealers in the past, I think it's hilarious that Hezbollah ripped off Ted Rogers' cellphone:

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step — and so it was that law professor Susan Drummond's long, strange trip into the world of wireless security, where she learned that a terrorist organization had appropriated Ted Rogers' cellphone number, was launched by the arrival of a phone bill for $12,237.60.

Ms. Drummond, who had just returned from a month-long trip to Israel, went numb as she looked at the stupefying figure, which was more than 160 times higher than her typical monthly bill of about $75. The Rogers Wireless bill included a five-page list of calls charged to her phone, almost all of them to foreign countries that included Pakistan, Libya, Syria, India and Russia.


Since making that call to Rogers last August, Ms. Drummond and her partner, Harry Gefen, have been researching the cellphone giant, yielding some unexpected discoveries, among them that the phones of senior Rogers executives, including Mr. Rogers himself, were repeatedly “cloned” by terrorist groups that used them to make thousands of overseas calls.

That bit of information came out at a conference Mr. Gefen attended in September, where he spoke with Cindy Hopper, a manager in Rogers security department, who told him that the phones of top Rogers executives had been the target of repeated cloning by a group linked to Hezbollah. (Cloning involves the duplication of a cellphone's identity by capturing its number and encrypted security code.)

Speaking into Mr. Gefen's tape recorder — and unaware that he was an aggrieved customer — Ms. Hopper said terrorist groups had identified senior cellphone company officers as perfect targets, since the company was loath to shut off their phones for reasons that included inconvenience to busy executives and, of course, the public-relations debacle that would take place if word got out.

But seriously folks, this sort of fraud is hurting a lot more people than the wireless companies are letting on. When digital PCS and GSM phones were first rolled out, they kept talking up the security benefits as opposed to analog phones, because they supposedly couldn't be cloned.

But criminals always catch up with technology, because you can't build stronger locks without making keys.

And now they're making the problem worse by hoping that customers will join in the PR coverup with them by paying off questionable bills instead of fighting them in public.

Rogers and other wireless companies would be well advised to be more vigilant when this sort of fraud happens, even if it means getting the bosses upset when their phones get cut off. Some customer is going to drag this all the way to court where they might have to disclose their security procedures, thus giving a how-to guide for aspiring crooks and terrorists.

Source: Globe and Mail (a division of Bell Globemedia chuckling at the misfortune of Bell Mobility's main competitor)

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