With jobs scarce and time on their hands, some Gazans have found a new way to make money — hacking internet-based phone lines and routing international calls for a fee.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) hacking has been a phenomenon for years. But now Gaza is getting in on the act.
There are various ways of hacking VoIP networks, but people familiar with the practice in Gaza say it involves using dedicated servers to scoop up as many telephone IP addresses as possible, especially from big corporations and businesses.
Then follows a time-consuming process of testing possible username and password combinations against the addresses. Since people often do not change their default credentials, it’s only a matter of time before many of these accounts are compromised. At that point the line, and any credit attached to it, is under the hackers’ control.
The hackers then sell the access to a third party — sometimes a legitimate business, sometimes another VoIP squatter — and get paid by electronic transfer.
Some hackers are said to earn up to $50,000 a month if they manage to get hold of good lines, although they can also go weeks without earning anything.
One 25-year-old justified his hacking, saying, “Maybe you can call this stealing, but those companies abroad have insurance.”
VoIP fraud is a big business. The Communications Fraud Control Association, a U.S.-based industry body, listed it as one of the top five methods of fraud, with losses of $3.62 billion in 2013, the latest available data.
Gaza-based lawyer Mustafa Totah told Reuters it was hard to crack down on the activity because no specific complaints were being made, a point echoed by local police.