South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, July 2010, #2.
Safety and Security in a Digital Age
South Carolina LawyerJuly 2010Safety and Security in a Digital AgeBy Melissa F. BrownNew technology is now available for purchase by anyone with access to the Internet that provides valuable information about individuals, their habits and whereabouts. Most of this technology was created for legitimate purposes, but unfortunately, some users, such as abusive spouses, jealous boyfriends/girlfriends, dishonest employees and others, misuse the technology to the detriment of another.
Family law litigants are often targets of this misuse. Thus, lawyers, litigants and judges must learn how others misuse technology to protect victims from abusive tactics. It is also important for all to understand how to properly use this technology so one does not inadvertently violate federal and/or state laws.
Pre-paid phone cards that spoof callers' originating phone numbers, GPS tracking devices installed in cars or cell phones, and various types of computer spyware are just a few of the many products available for purchase, and most are easily purchased online. Blog sites such as www.chatcheaters.com highlight many of these products that one might use to gain an unfair advantage against another person. Familiarizing ourselves with these technologies and products is critical in family court cases because one cannot properly prepare his case nor can a judge intelligently rule without keeping up with the many advances in this digital age.
Misuse of caller ID by pre-paid spoofing phone cards
SpoofCards are prepaid phone cards that offer "the ability to change what someone sees on their caller ID display when they receive a phone call." SpoofCard Frequently Asked Questions, available at http://www.spoofcard.com/faq (last visited Nov. 9, 2009). This technology is even accessible as iPhone and Facebook applications. The application promotes caller ID spoofing, voice-changing and call recordings. SpoofCard also allows users to change the gender of their voice to further disguise their identity from the recipient of their call. While the use of this technology is legal, some states have passed laws making spoof caller ID illegal when it is used "to mislead, defraud or deceive the recipient of a telephone call." Id. However, in July 2009, a Florida district court held that the state's recently enacted Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act was unconstitutional because the Act's effect regulated commerce outside the state, and therefore the Act violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Federal Court Strikes Down Florida Anti-Caller ID Spoofing Law,
available at http://www.newsguide.us/technology/telecommunications/Federal-Court-Strikes-Down-Florida-Anti-Caller-ID-Spoofing-Law/(last visited Dec. 12, 2009).On the federal level, the House of Representatives reintroduced a bill to amend the Federal Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit the manipulation of caller identification information, and a House committee is currently reviewing the proposed bill. Truth in Caller ID Act, H.R. 1258, 111th Cong. (2009).
Fraudulent uses of SpoofCards include someone taking advantage of a credit card company's use of caller ID to authenticate a customer's newly-issued credit card. In these situations, where credit card holders are asked to validate their new credit card by calling a 1-800 number from their home phone or cell phone, spoof card technology can intercept the "validation method," and this interception or "spoofing" allows the spoofer to pretend he is the card's true owner and, in essence, "steal" the card. The "credit card thief" can then fraudulently use the other person's credit card without that person's knowledge until the first bill arrives in the mail. Bruce Schneier, Schneier on Security, available at http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/03/caller_id_spoof.html (last visited Nov. 9, 2009).
Other fraudulent uses include prank calls. In 2005, SWAT teams surrounded a building in New Jersey after police received a call from a woman claiming she was being held hostage in an apartment. Her caller ID had been spoofed, so the 911 call appeared to come from her apartment. This incident occurred the year before SpoofCards entered the market. Other spoofing technology was used here. The woman living there was not actually in any danger. Instead, two other young women called 911 and pretended to be a "hostage" so that the 911 operator was tricked into believing the call came from the victim's apartment. The teenagers were later found and charged with conspiracy, initiating a false public alarm and making a fictitious report to police. Second Suspect Arrested in N.J. Standoff Hoax,
available at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,151546,00.html, written March 25, 2005.
Another example of spoofing abuse includes breaking into someone else's cell phone voice mailbox. Many cell phone systems are automatically set up to accept calls from the account owner's cell phone number to activate a replaying of all voice mail messages left on the cell phone. SpoofCard technology has the ability to create the fiction that it is a cell phone and the spoofer can then listen in on someone else's voice mail messages. This is a danger divorce litigants need to know so their spouse does not use this technology to listen in on their voice mail messages. Attorneys need to warn their clients about this potential danger and advise them to password protect their cell phone voice mail. Bruce Schneier, Schneier on Security, available at http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/03/caller_id_spoof.html (last visited Nov. 9, 2009).
Deborah Alexander, a New Jersey divorce attorney, had a client who was a victim of domestic violence. Alexander obtained a restraining order against the ex-husband, and he wanted this order overturned. To "prove" his case, he used spoofing technology to make it appear his ex-wife was calling him incessantly and that his ex-wife did not really fear him. By spoofing, he would call himself using her number so his caller ID appeared as if it was her phone number. The only way Alexander proved her client was not calling her ex-husband was to show that she did not make certain calls at certain times. She proved her case with the use of computer forensic specialists as well as the cell phone providers' cell phone records. Thus, proving someone has spoofed another requires proving the absence of calls or texts from the cell phone number that was spoofed.
TrapCall is another type of prepaid phone card that is manufactured by the makers of SpoofCard. TrapCall cards work differently from SpoofCards. Instead of spoofing others' numbers, it is designed to unblock and reveal callers' identities and phone numbers even if the caller paid to block his or her number or have it unlisted.
Some TrapCall features also provide the caller's full name and billing address. TrapCall is also capable of sending transcriptions of a caller's voice mail as an e-mail message to the TrapCall user's phone without the knowledge of the person who left the message. TrapCall Features, http://www.trapcall.com/features (last visited Dec. 9, 2009). And...