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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Call Forwarding

cross-posted to Innovation Matters blog

According to legend, the automatic telephone exchange was invented by an undertaker (Almon Strowger) who believed his business was being redirected to his competitors by corrupt telephone operators.

David Lazarus
reports a vulnerability in call forwarding, whereby a fraudster persuades ATT to redirect a pizza parlour's calls to him. In this case, the fraud involved collecting credit card numbers, but as Lazarus suggests, this scam could also be used by a competitor to steal business.

Further comments on Bruce Schneier's blog, where greygeek points out the historical irony of the Strowger switch.

Fraud erodes the benefits of technological progress. What were the original benefits of the automatic telephone exchange? It was efficient, impersonal and less vulnerable to bribery and corruption. These are some of the benefits of the classic bureaucracy as identified by Max Weber - and many technological innovations provide similar benefits.

And now the benefits of Strowger's innovation are apparently reversed. Don't assume that technology progress is always onward and upward.

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