How To: Phreak (Basics)

Phreak (Basics)

Get some tinfoil hats and make a time machine because we are about to go back to the 90s and learn about some phreaking.

Step 1: What Is Phreaking?

Phreaking is the action of hacking into telecommunications systems, especially to obtain free calls. Phreaking was big in the 90s, until everyone stopped using payphone, but we can still learn about some hacking techniques and even try to perform them on our local pay phones.

We are going to start with a very simple concept and skill, red boxing.

Step 2: Red Boxing

What is red boxing? Red boxing is a fun thing you can do on pay phones to trick the system into giving you a free call. For instance, if you put in a quarter, it will play a high pitched frequency 5 times very fast. We can replicate this frequency today with a youtube video on our smartphone. If you are from the US, you can find the frequency for a quarter with this youtube video:

If you are from outside the US, just google around a bit until you find the right video. Now I will show you how to use this video to get free calls.

Step 3: How to Use Red Boxing

Since phreaking is from the 90s, it can be challenging to find the right payphone. Pay phones that still work are ones with Qwest or Verizon operators. To connect to an operator simply press 0 on the payphone and wait for an operator to be connected. The conversation might go something like this:

Hello, operator, how may I help you?

Hi I'm trying to reach a number.

Area code and phone number?

Yes (say phone number here)

That'll be $2.25 (or whatever)

Now is where the magic happens:

Take your phone or digital recording device with the youtube video or other recorded frequency ready to play ready to play. If you used the video I posted above, just hold the speaker to the bottom of the place where you talk in the payphone and hit play on your phone or recording device as many times as needed. Then simply ask, "Is that enough?". The operator will then transfer you to your call. Make sure you here the operator click off before your call is transferred. Some operators can be nosey and listen in on the call. I once called a friend and told him how I red boxed and the operator came in and threatened to call security.

Step 4: Conclusion

So you went back in time and learned a bit about phreaking. From here should be more interested in learning about telephones and how they work. I encourage all my viewers to hack the love and glory out of pay phones and if you have any questions, just comment below!

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1 Comment

My dad was big into phreaking. So fascinating that it was all about tones.

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