Talk:War dialing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
WikiProject Computer Security / Computing  (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject iconThis article is within the scope of WikiProject Computer Security, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of computer security on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by WikiProject Computing.

Clarification of terminology[edit]

I thought that war dialing was essentially the same thing as what's described in the article on demon dialing — that is, dialing every number in an area to try to find listening computers. This article only mentions calling a single number repeatedly. Comments? —Arteitle 10:40, Mar 3, 2004 (UTC)
(I should add that "war dialing", as it's now described in the article, wasn't depicted in the film WarGames, but "demon dialing" as described there was. In the film, David dials every number in Sunnyvale in sequence looking for a particular software company.) —Arteitle 10:45, Mar 3, 2004 (UTC)

I object to the recent changes to war dialing and demon dialing. I can find numerous sites that define "war dialing" as dialing a range of numbers, and "demon dialing" as dialing the same number repeatedly (though sometimes it's given as a synonym for the former). [1] [2] [3] [4] Unless someone can justify the recent flip-flopping of their definitions, I'm going to change them back. --Arteitle 07:51, Mar 15, 2004 (UTC)

I've gotten what seemed like wardialing calls in the last year, in the u.s. I'm puzzled why the article refers to this in the past tense. The term seems appropriate for current practices, e.g. junk faxers and automated telemarketing calls. See [5]. -- Todd, Aug 15, 2005

Is there a reliable citation for war dialing predating the movie War Games ? What's the earliest verified description/incident? SJS 01:48, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

That's going to be difficult as I believe the term war dialing was not used until after the movie was released. However, in chapter 5 of Hackers:_Heroes_of_the_Computer_Revolution the author claims that Stewart_Nelson_(hacker) had, in the mid-50's, constructed a hardware autodialer and a gold box. It is also claimed that during his time at MIT he was a gifted "fone hacker" and that he, and presumably others, had used the AI Labs PDP-1 and PDP-6 computers to blue box. It is further claimed that he (they?) mapped out Bells nascent 800 toll-free service, and knowing the mindset of what the author calls first generation hackers, this would not have been done by hand when he had a perfectly good computer to do most of the work. From the descriptions given in the book it is highly likely that Nelson constructed the "phone interface" which allowed the PDP-6 to "talk" to the phone system. In conclusion it is almost certain that, at some point, he wrote at a minimum a high speed dialer if not a full blown war dialer. (talk) 02:30, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

BBS usage, early '90s[edit]

War dialing or wardialing is a method of automatically scanning telephone numbers using a modem, usually dialing every telephone number in a local area to find where computers or fax machines are available, then attempting to access them by guessing passwords.

The usage around the BBS scene I recall was that wardialing meant hunting for modems, without any implication of password guessing. Rather the intent was to find things like Corporate or little known BBSs that had free accounts, mail, forums, online games, or file areas; the free accounts might be useful in an area where there were too many callers and not enough BBS's -- if the main local BBSs were busy, users would settle for "any port in a storm"; having extra BBSs was also useful for diagnostics -- "I can't log in to FooBBS, anybody else have this problem?", etc.

There are ample usages of this sort on record. Therefore I'll modify the lead paragraph. --AC 19:32, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Legal Clarification Requested[edit]

I realise that these laws no longer exist but would:

"The popularity of wardialing in 1980s and 1990s prompted some states to enact legislation prohibiting the use of a device to dial telephone numbers without the intent of communicating with a person."

imply that deliberately and knowingly calling an automated helpline would have been illegal in these states during this period? (talk) 14:34, 4 March 2013 (UTC)

After spending hours searching I can find no evidence that war dialing was ever illegal, at least not at the federal level in the United States. Federal law dealing with autodialers is covered by US Code Title 47 Chapter 5 Sub-Chapter II Part I Section 227 and is clearly intended to regulate telemarketing and also autodialing emergency numbers including but not limited to 911, health care facilities, fire departments, poison control centers, law enforcement, homes for the elderly or numbers that cause a fee to be incurred by the called party. As you've probably guessed you could quite easily violate this with a war dialer without meaning to. Colorado and Virginia have specific legislation intended to deal with telemarketing and harassment respectively but these are misdemeanors. The claim that it's illegal seems to be a hacker myth as I've repeatedly found it stated without any supporting evidence both in print (Calculated Bets by Steven Skiena and The Happy Hacker by Carolyn Meinel) and on the web [6] (a search turns up many more) but every source appears to lead back to the wording of the alt.2600 FAQ which in turn leads directly to the reply to a letter published in 2600 Magazine (Spring 1990 Vol. 7 No. 1 page 27). Now it gets weird (and even more speculative), the tacked on bit about it being illegal in Colorado Springs,CO seems to be connected to Kevin Mitnick, the origin seems to be a claim from this LA Times article where a "friend" of Mitnick's, claims that in 1979 they broke into NORAD, which by coincidence is the setting for the movie WarGames, but I'm sure that's just coincidence. (talk) 02:30, 30 June 2014 (UTC)


Doesn't Homer in one episode have a machine that calls every number in Springfield? abelson (talk) 21:47, 22 December 2008 (UTC)

Lisa's Date with Density- an autodialer. There seems to be some overlap in the terms. Nevard (talk) 04:15, 28 December 2008 (UTC)
Hmm sort of, but that specific use is already covered extensively by the Robocall entry. Personally I consider demon dialing, war dialing, robocalling, predictive dialing, outbound IVR etc. as specific uses of an autodialer differing in purpose and implementation. I understand what you're saying by overlap but originally War dialing referred specifically to using a computer program to control a modem for the purpose of identifying phone numbers that have a modem connected to them. This definition changed over time as both modems and dialers got more advanced and people thought of new uses for the technique, a more modern example would be for penetration testing of SCADA systems. (talk) 02:30, 30 June 2014 (UTC)