Hackers build 'private' mobile phone network for DefCon
Hackers who spent their teen years phone-phreaking -- breaking into telephone networks and making free calls -- have created their own GSM network at Defcon and are using creative and silly apps on highly customized Android phones.
The Ninja hacker group is giving the phones away to people who have contributed to the community, and to their lucky friends. The phones and accompanying lanyards serve as "badges" that provide entrance to the annual Ninja party tonight. (Defcon attendees can also get in by donating blood or signing up to donate bone marrow, or donating money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.)
The phones are HTC One V phones running Android 4.0.3. Calls can be routed over the private GSM network or over Defcon's Wi-Fi network. The network is not encrypted and there is no emergency call phone number. The "Ninja Tel" network is "the biggest open BTS (base transceiver station) network ever," said Ninja Michael J.J. Tiffany. BTS networks are designed to allow for software-based switching technology that can be housed in small spaces, such as a van.