Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Stone/Spitzer telephone call

The blogosphere is a-twitter discussing a crank call made by a GOP dirty tricks operative to Spitzer’s Father. Stone, a participant in the Watergate scandal, claims that the call was made by someone who broke into his appartment.

Stone's purported 'alibi' is implausible but difficult to disprove unless someone saw him at home when the call was made. It is unlikely that he would have made the crank call in front of a witness.

Stone has also pointed to the fact that CallerID spoofing might have been used, this is a considerably weaker claim since CallerID would only affect the number displayed on the receiver's telephone and not the records used for billing. In particular the billing records for Stone's telephone could not be affected by CallerID spoofing.

There are in fact ways that a fake call could be placed on Stone's line but the circumstances that would make it possible are not very likely to apply in this case and in any case a forensics expert would be alert for the possibility. If there was a PBX on the line a hacker could gain control of the PBX and use it to relay the crank call. This is unlikely to apply in this case since it was a residential line and even if a PBX relay had been used there would be two calls, one into the PBX and one going out that started and finished at about the same time.

Another possibility is that the call was made from a computer connected to the telephone line. In the age of broadband this is most implausible.

Yet another possibility is that there was an attack at the level of the telephone switching infrastrucutre. This is possible in theory but not the sort of thing that you can find pre-packaged attack tools for on the typical hacker site. It would be much easier to perform the burgalry.

In the end the quality of the circumstantial evidence matters rather less than the quality of the policing. Stone's story is not something that he can expect to be believed by the police. It is one thing to tell a bunch of bullshit to the press, quite another to tell a lie to the police - as Martha Stewart discovered. Methinks that unlike Scooter Libby the pardon cavalry is not going to ride for the likes of Stone.

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