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Well-Known Member
Dec 5, 2003
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I received this from my ISP and thought it would be relevant to all Brits.


Updated: 5 April
Who is affected: All internet users

ntl would like to warn all customers about the risk of inadvertently loading premium rate phone dialler software onto your computer. This software could reconfigure your computer to dial a premium rate number to connect you to the internet, or cause your computer to dial other premium rate numbers without your permission, resulting in large phone bills.

This problem mainly affects dial-up internet customers, but can also affect broadband customers if you leave your phone line plugged into your computer.

Whilst there are legitimate uses for dialler software applications, many are designed to be downloaded and installed without your consent and to connect to premium rate telephone services, sometimes costing as much as £1.50 per minute, without your knowledge.

How to tell if you are affected
You should thoroughly check your phone bill for any 09 premium rate numbers, and check your dialler settings to make sure there are no unrecognised dial-ups set up. These can be found by going into Internet Options on your Control Panel, and clicking on the "Connections" tab or by searching for "Dial-up Networking" in Windows Help.

What should you do?
Installing and configuring a reputable firewall application will protect your PC from unauthorised downloads, and give you an opportunity to block any attempted downloads from unrecognised sources. You can download a free firewall here. You should not download software from the internet unless you are sure of the source.

It is your responsibility to make sure your computer is not used to make these unauthorised premium rate calls, and as an ntl telephone customer, you can bar premium rate phone calls from your line. Other telephone service providers can also offer this service.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of such a fraud, contact ICSTIS, the body that supervises telephone information services such as premium rate services, who can investigate cases of telephone fraud.

If you are an ntl broadband customer and you also have a conventional modem in your PC, we advise you to physically unplug your modem lead from the wall socket.

Where can you get more information?
The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services - ICSTIS
This is quite a real threat, not just in the UK, and can be way more severe than 1.50 pounds/minute. I worked at a phone company up to about a year and a half ago here in Canada, and there were more than a few customers who got hit by this kind of thing. The most common seemed to call to numbers in Sao Tome & Principe... numbers that rotated every couple of weeks, so by the time the customer got their phone bill and complained, the numbers billed were disconnected. We came across some that billed at nearly CAD$20/minute.

The rub is that as the owner of the phone line, you are responsible for every call placed from that line, even if it's not done with your knowledge, unless you can prove that your phone line was tampered with. In these cases the phone line isn't being tampered with, and even though the computer is placing the call outside your control, you're just as responsible as if, say, your three year old kid dialed a 1-900 number to automatically pledge $50 to your local cancer foundation.

The worst ones to deal with were the ones that claimed they had a broadband (cable/dsl) connection... "Does your computer have a phone line modem, and is it still plugged in?" "Well yes but I don't use it." "..." If you don't need your phone line modem plugged in, for goodness' sake, unplug it, or it's just another vulnerability!

Oh, another thing you can do to keep unwanted programs from installing themselves... if you use Windows, modern versions of Windows have this really nice automatic updating tool, "Windows Update". Use it. Yes, you'll have to use it often, because Windows is about as secure as moist tissue, but for example my friend caught the CoolWebSearch trojan last week and if he'd used Windows Update to get the Windows Service Pack that has been out for months, the trojan wouldn't have been able to install itself on his machine.
There was/is some scam from US to a Carribean Is. that charged hundreds of dollars per minute. Ouch!
Another thing to consider is installing a firewall. These can not only help in stopping the nasties from getting on your comp in the 1st place; but they can also help stop the autodialers accessing the outside world, by warning you that a new process is trying to access t'internet. NB: The firewall which comes as standard with XP *DOES NOT* do this very well, you are much better off downloading a freebie firewall, like ZoneAlarm.