> This textfile appears as an article in 2600: The Hacker Quarterly
> Volume Twenty-Three, Number Four, Winter 2006-2007 edition
Disclaimer: The information contained in this textfile is for informational
purposes only. Red boxing is illegal, and a form of toll-fraud. I disclaim
all responsibility and liability for any illegal activity based on the
information contained in this textfile.
Red boxing is a topic in the phreaking scene that you've probably
read up on many times before in various textfiles and articles, both online
and in magazines. Because of that, you're probably not expecting much by
reading yet another textfile on this subject. On the contrary, this
textfile will provide you with everything you need to know about red boxing
today, beyond just answering the simple question, "Can I still red box?"
I'm actually going to explain *how* you can still do it. In this textfile,
I will explain why red boxing is still possible, and what has changed since
a few years ago. I will also go over many ways of still accomplishing this
easy task, including a few tricks and other advice you can use when the
necessary coin prompt doesn't come on the line. So here it is folks: the
red boxing textfile you've been waiting to read for today's payphone
technology. Read on and enjoy!
Note: A lot of the information you are about to read is based on Verizon
payphones, so keep that in mind if any information seems inaccurate for
payphones by other providers.
Red boxing, as most of you should already know, is a simple method
of placing free calls on payphones using the tones that a payphone generates
when coins are inserted. If you were unaware of this, then you should do
some reading on the subject before continuing further, otherwise you may not
understand the information in this textfile. For those of you who have
already read the many textfiles and articles out there, you may recall some
of the more recent ones claiming that red boxing is either obsolete, or can
still be accomplished but with certain limitations. Others may have seemed
too vague, lacking a lot of important and valuable information. Regardless
of what you may have read, the truth is that it is still possible today, so
let's start by going over what makes red boxing possible.
What Makes Red Boxing Possible:
Think back to the "good ol' days" when red boxing was a fad in the
phreaking scene. Everyone had their modified tone dialer, microcassette
recorder, or other form of red box device at the ready, dialing away at the
nearest payphone. But think about what they were waiting for on the line;
you may be missing the key to what made it all possible. You can't start
playing your tones at any given time; you first need to know the rate of the
call. Soon after dialing the number, the automated prompt for the amount to
deposit came on the line, which is also the system that verifies your coins
by listening for the tones that the payphone, or your red box, plays down
the line: the Automated Coin Toll System (ACTS). In other cases, a live
operator would come on the line instead, but you'd still be asked for the
amount to deposit. Even with the operator on the line, ACTS was there as
well, so red boxing was still an option as long as the operator didn't
suspect toll-fraud. Now that we've covered the main thing that makes red
boxing possible, let's go over why some people question its plausibility.
The Cause of the Confusion:
Until a few years ago, getting ACTS on the line was simple. All you
had to do was dial a long distance number and wait to be prompted for the
amount to deposit by either by an automated ACTS prompt or a live operator.
In both cases, it was very simple and anybody could do it as long as they
had a red box to play the necessary tones. The reason that this was so easy
is because during this time, all long distance calls by coin were handled by
AT&T throughout the country, and therefore you would get *their* ACTS on the
line whenever you dialed a long distance number. Unfortunately, things did
change with time.
According to their news release on June 5, 2002,
(http://www.att.com/news/2002/06/05-10539), AT&T began phasing out their
ACTS as the months went by, starting with the states that had the most coin
long-distance calling. During this time, as long as the payphone you were
using wasn't phased out yet, a recorded message would come on the line
before your call was completed and tell you that the payphone you were using
would soon no longer accept coins for AT&T long distance calls, suggesting
the use of a prepaid calling card or other payment method as a substitute.
Sure enough this eventually happened.
Now without AT&T's ACTS in place anymore, long distance coin calls
have to be handled differently. So if you dial a long distance number on a
payphone that formally gave you the automated ACTS prompt or an AT&T
operator requesting coins, you will instead get routed to an intercept
(an error message), or be prompted for coins from the payphone itself.
Once people started getting this instead of the AT&T prompt they were used
to, many jumped to conclusions and claimed red boxing as obsolete. Other
people claimed that red boxing is only possible through a live operator.
However, like I said before, red boxing is still possible and using a live
operator is not always necessary.
How It's Still Possible:
So how can you still red box? In order to answer that question, I
first need to go over LATAs. In case you're not familiar with that term,
LATA stands for Local Access and Transport Area. LATAs are geographic areas
that dictate how far an Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC), an
independent carrier such as Verizon or SBC, can route calls. If a call
stays inside of a LATA, it is an intra-LATA call. Also, if an intra-LATA
call goes beyond a local calling area, it is called a regional toll call
(also sometimes referred to as "local toll"). Calls that are placed between
LATAs are inter-LATA, and handled by an Interexchange Carrier (IXC),
otherwise known as a long distance carrier. Did you get all of that? Good,
then let's continue.
AT&T indeed got rid of their ACTS, making red boxing long distance
calls a thing of the past. However, many ILECs still have their own in
place, namely Verizon, SBC, and Qwest. Since the ILEC is the carrier
running the ACTS you're trying to get on the line, all of your calls usually
need to be intra-LATA. There are different ways you can get ACTS on the
line, and in some cases, you are limited to where you can call in the LATA.
Types of Payphones:
It's very important to get familiar with the different types of
payphones in order to know which ones you're able to red box from. In fact,
with the newer technology implemented in more payphones now, you may also
need to know *how* to red box them. There are four types of payphones that
I am going to go over: BOCOTs, COCOTs, Hybrids, and Half Breeds.
Bell owned and operated payphones are usually the only ones that use
network-control signaling to communicate with ACTS. Therefore, these are
the ones you normally want to look for if you want to go red boxing. Your
area's ILEC is always the provider, and its logo should always be shown
somewhere on these payphones, making them easy to point out. The three
types of Bell operated payphones that I'll go over are BOCOTs, Hybrids, and
Half Breeds. One thing to note is that a BOCOT can refer to *any* of these
three payphones, but herein I'll be using this term specifically for the
ones that *do not* have firmware programmed in them. Now that I've made
that clear, let's continue.
BOCOT stands for Bell Owned Coin Operated Telephone. This payphone
is very standard, and does not have any firmware programmed in it to
interfere with what you dial. In a lot of areas, these were the original
payphones introduced before newer technology came out. You should be able
to tell if you're on one of these phones when you dial; there won't be any
internal recordings or modem dialing after you dial a phone number. You
should also be able to break the dial tone by tapping the switch hook. For
all of these reasons, this is the payphone that should give you the least
amount of trouble when using your red box.
COCOT stands for Customer Owned Coin Operated Telephone. This type
of payphone rarely uses network-control signaling or supports ACTS, at least
in the U.S. There are many types of this payphone used by different
providers. The logo, if shown, should represent a Competitive Local
Exchange Carrier (CLEC), which is simply a carrier that competes with an
ILEC. Firmware in the phone determines rates, verifies coin payment, and
routes calls using an internal modem. In this common case, red boxing is
not an option. In rare circumstances, a COCOT may use network-control
signaling to communicate with ACTS, and possibly also lack firmware, making
red boxing possible.
Hybrids are Bell operated payphones like BOCOTs. These are usually
the same phone and look identical. The difference is that these have
firmware in them. When dialing phone numbers, or even the local operator
with 0, the firmware usually kicks in and dials the number for you using an
internal modem. The problem with this is that what *you* dial and what the
modem dials can be two different things. For example, on Verizon Hybrids,
dialing 0 for the local operator will cause the modem to dial Verizon Select
Services' Carrier Access Code (CAC) plus a zero, in the format 101-XXXX-0.
This brings you to a long distance CLEC operator, instead of the local
operator you were supposed to reach. A CLEC operator surely isn't going to
do coin verificat