Updated: 05/06/2024 by Computer Hope
Phreakomat phreak tool

Phreak is a slang term for hacking telephone networks and devices. It's a verb, as in "to phreak," or "phreaking." A person who phreaks is identified as a "phreak" or "phreaker." The word combines the words "freak" (meaning "aberration," or "enthusiast") and "phone."

Usually, a phreak illegally manipulates a telephone system to make free calls, circumventing long-distance or international telephone fees. Phreaking began in the late 1950s with the advent of automated telephone switching.

In an attempt to help identify phreakers, in 1964 AT&T started monitoring phone calls. This monitoring is believed to be the first known occurrence of corporate monitoring of customer telephone activity. AT&T's monitoring was a success, and led to several successful prosecutions, and a drop in phreaking. One of the most well-known phreakers is John Draper aka Captain Crunch.

The act of manipulating telecommunications continues today, but the traditional identity of a phreak is no longer the same. It was diluted by the creation of the Internet, and the transition from analog to digital telephony.

2600, Bad actor, Blue box, Computer slang, Hacker, Security terms, Social engineering