Here's another reason to finally cancel your landline telephone and just use your cell: home phones are "really, really easy" to tap, according to a Times digest of lessons from the wiretapping trial of Anthony Pellicano, the Los Angeles private investigator of journalists and movie moguls. Anyone tapping my line would mainly just hear me calling my own mobile phone to determine which pocket I left it in. But in case you actually conduct secure communication from home, or like to indulge in the occasional Raymond Chandler fantasy, here are the key attack vectors:

  • The curbside neighborhood "b-box" has your target's line, you just have to figure out the right two wires, then use $50 worth of Radio Shack equipment to intercept their calls. Many of these boxes are unlocked, at least in Southern California, while the others tend to all have the same key, "and retired technicians apparently keep them."
  • Sneak in to the central switching office, open at all hours for technicians and "often unsupervised."
  • Seduce the phone company dispatchers, like this guy: "Prosecutors say a field technician from SBC Communications (now AT&T), Rayford Turner, who was a bit of a ladies' man, prevailed upon a small group of middle-age female SBC dispatchers to give him whatever data he requested: toll records, cable pairs, names, phone numbers and so on. They continued to do so long after he retired."
  • Rent an apartment: " When Mr. Pellicano wanted to hear the calls of someone who lived outside his area code, prosecutors say, he rented an apartment nearby and had Mr. Turner run the duplicated phone line into it. There it would be plugged into a Macintosh computer that would record a new digital audio file each time the subject's receiver was lifted off the hook."
  • Get a special "set of undocumented phone lines" from the central office to yours. Pellicano did this and was able "to monitor calls across Beverly Hill without even stepping outside."


(Image via EveryStockPhoto)