By Dell Crill
CRC IT Consulting Services
Today hacking into a main frame computer, stealing an identity or spamming email accounts is an everyday practice for most computer savvy criminals. There is another breed of hackers out there that do nothing but break into Telecom systems and hijack Long Distance dial tones. This elusive breed of hijackers can also be made up of your own company’s employee’s.
One of the mounting responsibilities for a telecom systems manager is to monitor their company’s phone bills for billing mistakes and fraudulent long distance calls. Checking a monthly phone bill is normally a great way to catch fraudulent use of telecom services. Most of the small time abusers can be stopped in this manner, but for the seasoned veterans with working knowledge of many phone systems and auto attendants it’s nothing to high jack lines and rack up hundreds of dollars in long distance charges in a few days. These tycoons also arrange for companies to buy the black market call time at a reduced rates which actually costs the hacker nothing. It’s a wonderful business to make 100% profit for transferring calls through a second or third unsuspecting party. Here are a few ways they get the job done!
They will most likely call your company on an 800 toll free line. When the auto attendant answers is when the fun begins. If they get an operator they may ask to be forwarded to a particular department at which time they will ask the operator for the extension number should they get cut off during the call. If there is no operator and the auto attendant answers they may access the voicemail system directly. The pound button is very common on most systems and will allow them to receive access to a complete directory with extension announcements and call routing. Once in the voicemail system they will try all default number sequences and passwords they know to obtain an outbound route or (line) from the voicemail box itself. It is not an uncommon practice for a business to allow outbound calling from a voicemail box. Many employees have external access to their voicemail accounts and can return calls after listening to a message without hanging up before they dial. By routing a call through the voicemail system they can grab an outbound line or channel on a T-1 and call all over the world for as long as they need. Many of these black market phone pirates will use several sites to route calls through at one time so it’s almost impossible to track the start and finish point of the call? Making it hard to track down the real culprits.
Another sure fire way of making free calls involves an employee who simply forwards there phones to a long distance number when they leave the office for the night or weekend. They may also program out bound calling routes through there voicemail boxes using off premise notification features or setting up Direct Inward System Access (DISA). These are normal options that can be setup by an end user and operators on most phone systems. The employee abuser is most likely not going to make long high dollar calls like you may see from a seasoned pro. They will however charge up $5.00 to $50.00 per month talking long distance to friends and family.
Tracking down these culprits can be a long tedious job. Once you suspect fraud there are many ways to start controlling it. First, Contact your telecom providers fraud investigation department as soon as you suspect foul play. These departments are always willing to lend a helping hand in identifying the parties responsible. They can also run interference between you and the service providers billing department by placing holds on your accounts to allow time to identify the problem before you have to pay. Your service provider can set up 24 hour monitoring of all inbound and outbound calls to and from your facility. They have the ability to track calls from start point to finish point and monitor all calls based on length and destination number. You would set the parameters for them and they will provide the monitoring. When a fraudulent call is identified the service provider will pursue those individuals responsible and shut down their operation.
What to do about charges on your bill? Remember; get the service provider involved as soon as possible. If legitimate fraud is found they will normally help offset the cost. They will not however allow any credit for fraudulent calls placed by your own employees. Your company would be responsible for obtaining any funds due from the employee directly. Also keep in mind that none of the service providers are responsible for charges encored on your bill and what ever credit or help they may give you is merely a good faith gesture. The only resolution I have seen to date in writing by a service provider was the following: If fraud is proven and you were unaware or had no control over the calls being made then the service provider would cover all charges encored over $10,000.00, Which basically means that you would be responsible to pay for all charges up to 10 thousand and the service provider would pick up the rest of the tab. This would normally only happen where you leased equipment that was serviced by them leaving you not responsible for security on the system. If you want help in this area be as nice and cooperative as you can and you will most likely get some or all of what you seek.
Here are a few ways to protect your company from Long distance fraud. Turn off outbound channel access from voicemail boxes. Provide individual access codes to allow one to make a long distance calls from the office. Ensure that employee’s are using passwords on there mail boxes that are not default in nature i.e.1234 or 0000 or 1111 etc. It seems that very few ever change their access passwords from the default provided by the system administrator. Do not allow direct inward system access (DISA) for outgoing long distance by traveling employees. Instead, have your service provider issue Long Distance calling cards that will allocate charges to a specific number assigned to each user on your main account. Purchase call accounting software that will provide you with daily reports on all inbound and outbound call traffic. Use built in management tools on your PBX’s to set alarm parameters that will tell you when calls exceed a curtain length in time. These and many more resolutions are available to help you protect your company from long distance hijackers and phone time abusers. If needed contact your telecom system vender or a consulting group that will help you protect your systems from outside intrusion.
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