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The topic says it all - I encountered the term in a PDF given to me. So ... what does the term/phrase 'War Dialing' mean?

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en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_dialing –  Iain May 4 '11 at 18:11
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You could migrate this over to security.stackexchange if you want, as it would be on-topic over there, but as you already have valid answers I don't know whether you want to or not. –  Rory Alsop May 4 '11 at 18:29
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migrated from serverfault.com May 4 '11 at 18:58

This question came from our site for professional system and network administrators.

4 Answers

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Like the others have said, it is the technique of using a computer to dial down a list of phone numbers in search for other modems or fax machines.

According to Wikipedia, the term was coined due to the technique's usage in the movie WarGames.

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Wardialing

It is also the root of the now more well-known term, wardriving, and its derivatives.

Wardriving is the practice of driving around an area with a laptop configured to scan for and collect data regarding wireless networks.

Warwalking is the same as wardriving, but on foot.

Warchalking is the practice of marking your wardriving/warwalking finds with chalk on a nearby wall or sidewalk.

For more information on "warXing", see the Wikipedia article here:

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/WarXing

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War-dialing is to telephone networks what network-scanning is to computer networks. A computer dials every number in a given number set to map out what's there. In olden days it was looking for unannounced modem gateways into interesting systems, and sometimes fax machines for fax-spam. The robust systems could tell the difference between fax machines, modems, voice-prompt systems, answering machines, voice mail, and actual people, much the same way that nmap can do service and OS identification of network-attached machines.

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Other posts have answered the basics of what war dialing is, but here is the reason you do it. A device in your network with a modem attached and reachable from the POTS, is outside the protection of your firewall.

War dialing is part of our security program we do every six months as sometimes a physical modem is necessary for support from an outside vendor. Obviously it should be checked by someone prior to go-live, but I live in the real world and know that doesn't always happen.

There are various commercial (Phonesweep) and opens source (THC-SCan, WarVox)tools out there, it just depend on your needs.

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It's using a modem to dial a bunch of numbers to see if you can get a session on another modem or other remote access device. It's the POTS equivalent of doing an NMAP sweep or similar.

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