The ‘Ph’ Mother Load

Andrew Layman, who is one of the key forces behind the WS-* set of industry standards, asked me recently if taxonomically speaking there was an activity called “phraud” that encompassed both “phishing” and “pharming”. And I thought he was joking!

But the concept struck me as a simplifying principle that would clean up a lot of slideware, so I asked if I could attribute the new category to him. Then a couple of days later, he sent me this etymologically satisfying email:

“It is such an obvious joke that I doubted I was the first one to think of it, so I searched the web for “phraud” and discovered lots of hits, most of them ambiguous, but clearly I’m not the first person to use that word.

“Interestingly, I also think they shed some light on the plausible origins of the term “phishing.” It appears that in the subculture of people who like to steal services from the phone company and the like, it is conventional to substitute ‘ph’ for ‘f’ a lot. Probably originating from ‘phone freak’ becoming ‘phone phreak’ and thence to all similar transformations. So luring people, that is, fishing, would quickly become ‘phishing’.”

I had actually had the same intuition. In fact I became sufficiently fascinated by the strange destinations associated with ‘phraud’ that I successfully avoided my growing pile of urgent tasks for several hours while exploring how far back its usage goes.

And then I hit the mother load. I mean a world where ‘Ph’ is hegemonic. A place where everyone has a ‘Ph’ D. Just look at this:

==Phrack Inc.==

Volume One, Issue Eight, Phile #2 of 9

==Phrack Pro-Phile V==

Written and Created by Taran King

June 25, 1986

Welcome to Phrack Pro-Phile V.Phrack Pro-Phile is created to bring information to you, the users, about old or highly important/controversial people. This month, I bring to you one of the most influential users of our times and of days of old…

An article on an identity system called (control yourselves) ISDN includes this quote from Mr. R., an AT&T supervisor:

“One of the controlling factors behind The Integrated Services Digital Network is the simple fact that AT&T, MCI, and other long distance companies are losing MILLIONS to Phone Phraud.”

Another “phile” which has not had the requisite cosmetic application of ‘Ph’ begins:

This file will detail the use of a rural junction box to fraud the phone company and make all the free phone calls you want to BBS or AE by.

Seems like Andrew hit the nail on the head.

Published by

Kim Cameron

Work on identity.