Caller ID Spoofing
January 7, 2013 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible that someone was spoofing my little sister's phone number?

My little sister (19 years old) has significant learning disabilities and is frequently the target of severe bullying. Today, she was called into a police station in a neighboring town and interrogated because someone had been texted a set of photos of my sister in a bikini, with inappropriate texts. My father--a lawyer--was present. The pictures appear to be cropped and/or taken from her facebook account. The origin of the number appeared to be from my sister's phone.

My parent's reviewed her phone and no pictures or texts like that were sent. Given that we generally believe my sister, and also given that she has frequently been the target of severe bullying for several years, we are inclined to believe this is another bullying incident.

We certainly plan to get an experienced criminal attorney to deal with this, and in fact are a family of lawyers--no need to to give us legal advice. We do not believe the nieghboring town police are going to go any further with charges against my sister although it is not clear they believe us. The police in our own town are amenable to us because they have been assisting my parents in dealing with previous phone harrasment. My major question is more about the technology involved:

(1) is caller ID spoofing something that is easy to do?

(2) Would spoofing be something that is traceable or identifiable? Would there be any records available for later subpeona?

(3) If the photo was sent to another phone via text, is there any embedded information in the photograph that would indicate its origins? Could we retrieve this information easily?

(4) are there any other technology questions or considerations that I may be overlooking that anyone at Metafilter could advise on?

Many thanks.
posted by anonymous to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know about the rest, but it's fairly easy to spoof any number you want in caller ID.
posted by xingcat at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

(1) Yes, very.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:53 AM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Something else you will want to check is with the phone service provider to make sure that the texts were not sent from her phone and then deleted from the device. The absence of any records of this on the device itself is not conclusive.
posted by elizardbits at 11:57 AM on January 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

(I'm not suggesting that your sister is lying to you about this, I'm suggesting that one or more of the bullies with whom she has a history gained access to her unattended phone long enough to send the messages and then delete the evidence. This is even easier if she is the kind of person who stays logged in to facebook from a mobile device all the time.)
posted by elizardbits at 12:03 PM on January 7, 2013

You likely can get detailed transaction records from the cell provider, which will answer the question of whether or not the texts were transmitted from your sister's phone. If it was not from her phone, then identifying the original source would require a subpeona to the cell phone record of the recipiant. The police investigating this should easily be able to obtain this information. Spoofing the caller_id is easy, spoofing the actual transmission detail is not.

It is possible that there is some forensic value in the cropped photos, depending on what software was used to crop the photos and resave them. Each time a photo is editted and resaved, there are various metadata saved with the new file that may provide some identifying data, but most likely just will provide the software package and platform used to do the photo edit.
posted by Lame_username at 12:38 PM on January 7, 2013

Call spoofing is easy, as was linked above. I knew there were any number of gateways to send a text via email or a website. So the only thing I was uncertain of was whether you could send a MMS (the texted picture/sound/video/whatever prototol.) that way.


Given the availability of that, it seems certain someone has one that will do so from an arbitrary number. A few years ago some folks did this with jailbroken iphones.

Whether that's traceable/provable or not depends a lot on the nature of the records the cellular provide keeps. They may or may not log whether an incoming text came through a gateway or not. I don't know whether the above exploit from Blackhat was patched or if it even can be done.

My suspicion is that the carriers are going to be very reluctant to share exactly what they can/do know about a sent text.
posted by phearlez at 2:26 PM on January 7, 2013

This actually happened to my stepdaughter a few months back. One of her schoolmates reported that she had sent her threatening texts. The police came over and talked to her, she let them look at her phone; they concluded that her number/ id had been spoofed.
posted by coldhotel at 5:10 PM on January 7, 2013

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