It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Hurt: Using Gear for the Bad

Imagine this situation. The phone rings with the caller id displaying your significant other. You gladly answer the phone but the voice on the other line sounds strange. The caller id never lies, so you believe it is who the phone says it is. A horrible, sinking feeling comes over you as the caller confesses to cheating with your best friend, complete with gory details. Your life is instantly falling apart with feeling of rage, sadness and confusion overwhelming you as the caller laughs and hangs up. Later, the complete conversation is found for all to see on Facebook with you as the victim. Believe it or not, this is all possible with a cell phone and the correct free application.

I am guessing that I speak for all of the Gear Diary Team members as well as the majority of our readers when I say that the daily relationship we have with our tech gadgets is for the most part enjoyable. Sure, we have our crashes and hang ups, but for most of us, the gear we use is almost a hobby. We can see this in the daily feed of posts here on Gear Diary. The majority of what we write is about gadgets and software that is fun or performs a function to make our life easier. Our pages are often filled with games and gadgets that we could all live without, but they bring us some sort of enjoyment. A recent experience, while seen as enjoyable to some, left me alarmed at the possibilities and uses of some of our most common gear.

We all know there is a dark, dangerous world of hackers and virus makers. It is a daily battle fighting these criminals keeping our computers clean, protecting our personal information and trying to keep friends from opening infected emails and links. What if major damage can be inflicted on people without any knowledge into this underworld, but simply owning a cell phone? A recent experience with a buddy, while mildly humorous at the time, left me alarmed at the damage that could be done possibly with seemingly innocent fun.

Here is what happened. I will leave the cell phone, operating system and names all anonymous to protect the people but also to not encourage use of the applications. My buddy tells another guy and myself to check out something crazy his phone can do. The other guy’s phone starts to ring with my name as calling. He answers and the caller starts to talk. His voice is completely changed to a creepy sound like heard on a television show trying to protect someone’s identity. He then taps his phone and his voice sounds like a female. We all have a good laugh at the craziness of what just happened and decided to test it out on one of our colleagues. The colleague just purchased his first smartphone and was just telling us how he was trying to figure it out. So the call is made using the receiver’s phone number to give him the appearance that his phone is calling him. The first couple of calls were just hung up to confuse him, then the caller uses the receiver’s name and asks for him. Comical at the time, knowing the guy on the other end is not very techy and probably totally confused. He later came to where we were sitting and we let him in on the joke. Ok, so silly fun, masking the incoming call number and a funny voice changer. It does not stop there as we investigated further.

So I have the idea for the original call receiver to go into his call log and call back the number (supposedly my phone) to see what happens. The three of us all assumed the prank calling phone would ring back, and the joke would be easily discovered. He taps the call button and looks across the table and to our surprise, my phone begins to ring. So not only does the incoming call fake the caller id on the ringing phone, that number is logged in as actually calling in the history. All of our thoughts changed from mild amusement to concern. This application is actually dangerous. As we all discuss how frightening the idea of someone using your number for mischievous purposes, my buddy discovers that all of the conversations were recorded. Not only were they recorded, but a Facebook button was available to instantly post the conversation for all to listen. Not only numbers from the phone’s contacts are available to call, but also any friends on Facebook who enter their numbers in the profile. SCARY!

So in a nut shell, any user can download a FREE application that allows their phone to call as any other phone number they choose. Not only do they call as that phone, but the phony number actually logs into the call history keeping the actual caller completely anonymous. To make it worse, the caller’s voice can be changed numerous ways masking their identity all the while recording the probable uncomfortable conversation. Before you let your inner teenager laugh at the new ability to crank call, think about the damage someone could do with your number. Just the thought of them calling a boss or significant other alone makes me shudder. This application could get someone fired, divorced or even in trouble with the law. It still blows my mind a day later that this actually exists and is legal!

Feel free to comment and discuss what you think about this or any other scary uses for everyday technology and everyday users. Is this the new front we will fight in our ability to protect ourselves and information?

Categories: Editorials


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