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September 21, 2011 Volume 11, Issue 38
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Telephonic Deceptions: Part II


Deception at work probably wasn't invented at work. Most likely it is a continuation of deception in the rest of life. But the technologies of the modern workplace offer new opportunities to practice the art. Here's Part II of a handy guide for telephonic self-defense.
Duma, a wolf at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, rolls to capture a scent atop a mound

Nature has many versions of Caller ID spoofing, one of which is most familiar to dog owners. Pictured is Duma, a wolf at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, as she rolls to capture a scent atop a mound. She's rolling on some aftershave sprinkled on the ground a few minutes earlier. Scent-rolling is believed to be a method for disguising the individual's own scent, as a means of avoiding detection by prey. It provides olfactory camouflage. Photo by Retron at en.Wikipedia.

Last time we looked at deceptions involved in faking calls, circumventing personal cell phone bans, and borrowing phones. Here is Part II of our catalog of telephonic deceptions.

Faux hang-ups
In these days of frequently broken cellular connections, we've all become accustomed to interrupted conversations. Usually, broken connections are due to malfunctions. But some people have taken advantage of the situation by actually terminating calls they no longer wish to continue. To avoid paying a social price if they do it angrily, they break the connection while they themselves are speaking calmly, as if engaged in the conversation. Their conversation partners then assume that the broken connection is a mishap, but the conversation breakers don't renew the connection, and they don't pick up if their partners try to renew.
Common mistakes: breaking the connection while the other person is speaking, or breaking it while audibly angry.
Background sounds made to order
Background sounds might not be what they seem. You can buy recordings of background sounds from airports, train stations, busy streets, traffic jams, sports events, arguing kids, and more. There are even apps for recording your own custom background sounds, to ensure, for example, that flight number announcements match what they are supposed to be, or that the arguing kids are actually your kids.
Common mistakes: re-using a recorded background sound once too often with the same person, or using a busy airport background when the airport in question is actually closed by weather or mishap.
Caller ID spoofing
Caller ID spoofing In telephone conversations,
background sounds might not
be what they seem
was the key technique used by the hackers working for News of the World. Using a paid service, the call initiator provides two phone numbers — the number to call, and the spoofed caller ID. The service then places the call to the first number in such a manner that it appears to have been originated from the second. This deception can make a call appear to come from a phone different from the originator's phone. Thus, for example, the originator can appear to be calling from work when actually calling from his or her mobile phone. If the originator's work phone is forwarded to his or her mobile phone, not even an immediate callback will unwrap the deception.
Common mistake: failing to control the background sounds of the originator's location well enough to match the location of the spoofed phone.

Caller ID spoofing can present real security concerns. For example, in the News of the World scandal, Caller ID spoofing gave abusers access to voice mailboxes that were not protected by password access. Most voicemail systems do provide this option, but most users never turn it on. Is your voice mailbox protected by a password? First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: The Reification Error and Performance Management  Next Issue
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See also Workplace Politics and Ethics at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout

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