War Dialer | Automatic Dialer - Why Do People Use Them?

War dialing, also known as auto dialing is an automated system that scans lists of telephone numbers in order to gain illegal entry into computerized systems. Commonly used by crackers, hackers, and hobbyists, the object is to try to break through personalized security by identifying user passwords and identifying IP addresses.

An autodialer makes a call and if an answering machine or human answers, the system will automatically disconnect. However, if a computer or fax machine modem answers the system then notes the number which can then be accessed at will by the perpetrator. Up to 10,000 numbers can be called in a day in any given area code. If answering the telephone personally it is easy to identify these systems as they respond with a carrier tone before hanging up.

For large corporations war dialing can be especially irritating since they often have multiple incoming telephone lines. The autodialer often generates consecutive numbers which can result in repeated hang-ups on a single day. Although this is an illegal practice in most states, as crackers and hackers continue to develop computer savvy, they find ways to evade authorities.

Originally known as "demon dialing" or "hammer dialing," after the release of the movie WarGames in 1983, it became known as "WarGames Dialer" which was finally shortened to war dialing. This was primarily due to limitations in the number of characters that could be input into a system to initiate a search of this type.

As technology has continued to advance, new types of autodialers have developed. For example, wardriving searches for wireless networks from remote locations. Just like war dialing it uses a forced system to search computer networks in order to collect data on Wi-Fi access points. Port scan, on the other hand, does just what the name suggests and searches every port of every IP address whereas warchalking lets people know which of these wireless networks are available by posting the addresses in chalk in public places.

Figuring out the password can be done in a couple of ways. One way is through authentication mechanisms such as "dictionary attack" which tries every word in the dictionary until the password is found. Another way is by wardialing the password which uses a system that tries every combination of letters and numbers until the right one is identified. Both are time consuming, but crackers and hackers often care less as long as they gain entry.

There are some ways an individual can protect themselves. One of the best ways is to change passwords every few days. Unfortunately, most people use the same password for every account they open and, unless a password protection system is installed, once the original password is determined, access to all accounts can be entered. The only way to avoid this is to have different passwords for each account. Even then you would need to change them periodically. The best way to protect your self is to understand that the Internet is not private and should be used with caution.
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