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Californian man held in alleged 911 hacking saga

Newswire reports are coming in (opens in new tab)about a teenager from Mukilteo, Seattle, being arrested on charges of hacking into the 911 emergency phone network.

Reports suggest (opens in new tab) that he managed to trick Emergency 911 dispatchers in Southern California into sending a SWAT team to the home of a randomly selected Lake Forest, California family.

Randal Ellis - aged 19 - is alleged to have impersonated a caller from a Lake Forest house shortly before midnight on March 29, saying he had murdered someone in the house and threatened to shoot others.

As you might expect, the police moved rather swiftly on the E-911 report, reportedly surrounding the house with dozens of police officers, dogs and a jellycopter, complete with high-powered sweeping lights.

The hoax got a bit more serious when Doug Bates, the head of household, thought he heard a prowler rustling in the bushes outside and grabbed a kitchen knife.

What about the helicopter's sweeping lights? -Ed.

When he entered the back yard, deputies armed with assault rifles confronted Bates and handcuffed him and his wife.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Ellis used a caller ID spoofing service to generate false caller ID data and accessed the E-911 network using a standard payphone.

Mind you, he didn't need to pay for the service, as the latest 2600 magazine (opens in new tab) - which landed on the doormat here at Gold towers this week - has an excellent piece on Caller ID spoofing services on page 49. (opens in new tab)

It isn't, as they say, rocket science to spoof a caller ID data stream (opens in new tab), but the US phone network is lot less secure than the UK's, where you still need access to a major switch to generate the caller ID.

Even assuming you could build the kit to generate spoof caller ID streams from your home or office, any in-band signalling of this type would be flagged up at the nearest BT or cable Network Operations Centre and investigated...