war dialing
n. A computer cracking technique that uses a software program to automatically call thousands of telephone numbers to look for any that have a modem attached.
Also Seen As
The cell-phone hackers of the past, who electronically jimmied phones for the thrill and free phone service, have graduated to Web site hacking. Today, there are an estimated 440 hacker bulletin boards, 1,900 Web sites purveying hacking tips and tools, and 30 hackers publications like "Phrack" and "2600: The Hacker Quarterly." There are readily available software programs for hacking tactics like "war dialing," "sniffing" and "fingering" — all used to exploit security weaknesses in computer systems.
—Steve Lohr, “Feeling Insecure, Are We?,” The New York Times, March 17, 1997
WheelGroup will now try to gain access by avoiding the Internet and attacking XYZ's individual computers. It will use a method called war-dialing. Consulting the phone number on the business card of an XYZ employee, the hackers assume (correctly) that computer modems at the company will use the same area code and three-digit prefix. Waddell downloads a free program from the Internet called ToneLoc, written by hackers named Minor Threat and Mucho Maas. It comes with a manual that explains how to automatically call thousands of phone numbers within a specific range.
—“How We Invaded a Fortune 500 Company,” Fortune, February 03, 1997
1990 (earliest)
Hacking sessions often stretched into the early morning hours. He would start by checking lists of computer phone numbers collected by his computer the night before through an automatic process called "war dialing." That's the brute force approach to hacking, when the computer runs through the night, methodically dialing every number in a telephone exchange. It records the number whenever it hits a "carrier tone" signaling a computer is on the other end.
—John R. Wilke, “Open Sesame: In the Arcane Culture Of Computer Hackers, Few Doors Stay Closed,” The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 1990
This term is based on the 1983 movie "War Games," now a classic in computer cracking circles. In the movie a young cracker (Matthew Broderick) is using war dialing to look for games and bulletin board systems. However, he inadvertently ends up with a direct connection to a high-level military computer that gives him control over the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Chaos ensues.