Cell Phone Stalkers Harass Washington Family

Cell Phone Manipulation

ABC News spoke with security experts who say they think they have the answer to the Kuykendall's mystery.

It's relatively easy to "spoof" a phone, allowing a person to mask or alter the number he or she is calling from, said ABC News consultant Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent. More sophisticated hackers can also clone a cell phone, allowing them to do just about anything the victim could do with the original phone, Garrett said. But cloning a phone would not allow someone to listen in on a phone call, which requires more sophisticated technology, Garrett said.

Atkinson, a communications engineer who recently testified in front of Congress about a leak of classified Coast Guard information, told ABC News this case sounds like a game of "cell phone manipulation."

Atkinson, who said he has been trained by the National Security Agency, said the perpetrators would probably have to hack into a Web site operated by the cell phone companies.

"Someone is manipulating the software and firmware in their cell phones and are exploiting weaknesses or 'features' in the phone, like the GPS, customized rings, and internal voice mail, that are installed by the manufacturer to provide special services," he said. Despite the complexity of the software programs used to hack into phones, technology experts say that even a prankster new to the game can cause trouble.

Inexperienced hackers, often called "script kiddies," can use programs developed by more tech-savvy hackers to break into computers and cell phones, Atkinson said. Commonly between the age of 15 and 25, script kiddies see these hacks as a way of asserting themselves, he added, much in the same way bullies beat others up.

Countless technology companies have contacted the McKays this past month, claiming that they have the equipment that police lack to find the hackers.

Detective Troyer disagreed. "We have that technology, and yet all of our tracking leads to dead ends," he said. 

Destined for Pay Phones?

Before you swear off cell phones forever, Garrett told ABC News there are some simple ways you can protect yourself from cell phone harassment.

Do not disable the password on your phone and change your password regularly, he said.

You can also purchase wireless security software online, which will make it more difficult for a hacker to spoof your phone.

If your phone has already been hacked, take it to the police. Then get a new phone and a new account and "do not give the new numbers away to a living soul" warned Atkinson. 

Tell the cell phone provider to make note in the account that you've had problems with a hacker in the past, which would throw up a red flag if anyone claims they are you when speaking to the cell phone company.

"This should educate people about the pitfalls and the lack of privacy we all have if someone wants to put the energy into it," Garrett said.

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