Phreaking hackers hit man with $53,000 phone bill

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

A Canadian businessman has been lumbered with a Canadian $52,359.59 (US $43,000) phone bill after a hacker broke into his voicemail system and spent nearly three weeks making phone calls to Bulgaria.

According to media reports from Bulgaria and Canada, Winnipeg businessman Alan Davison only discovered that there was a serious problem when he received the large bill from his telephone company yesterday, and discovered a flurry of calls to the Eastern European country between 21 November and 9 December.

Davidson, who claims that his long distance monthly bills often amount to less than $15, is reported to have been told that he made a mistake by only using a four digit password for his voicemail which meant – presumably – that the hacker was able to dial in and find a way to worm into the system.

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But how many voicemail systems give you an option of having as secure a password as you would get on a personal computer? Not many I would wager.

Fortunately this kind of phone phreaking is rare compared to the assaults we see on passwords and usernames used on computer systems. But that will be little consolation for Mr Davison who says he will have to fire a staff member to pay the bill.

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Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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