John Draper, also known by his alias “Captain Crunch,” is a pioneering figure in the history of computer hacking and telecommunications. Born in 1944, he gained fame in the 1970s for his innovative and unconventional exploration of the phone system.
Early Life and Background:
John Thomas Draper was born on March 11, 1944, in Utica, New York, USA. In his early years, he developed an interest in electronics and phone systems. He enlisted in the United States Air Force and worked with the Air Force Security Service, where he gained further knowledge about electronics and communications.
The Blue Box:
In the early 1970s, Draper discovered that a toy whistle found in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal produced a tone at precisely 2600 Hz. This frequency was the same tone used by the AT&T long-distance phone system to indicate an available trunk line, a signal that the call was complete, or an unused line. By replicating this 2600 Hz tone, Draper could manipulate the phone system and make long-distance calls for free. He built a device called the “Blue Box,” which could generate the necessary tones to control the phone network.
Phone Phreaking and Hacking:
Draper’s discovery of the Blue Box marked the beginning of his involvement in the phone phreaking subculture. Phone phreaking refers to the exploration and exploitation of the phone system’s vulnerabilities to make free long-distance calls or access various services.
Draper and his fellow phone phreaks used their technical skills to explore the phone network, discovering hidden information and vulnerabilities. They exchanged knowledge and techniques through underground publications like the “TAP Newsletter,” which played a significant role in disseminating their discoveries.
Legal Issues and Later Life:
As phone phreaking gained attention, Draper and some of his associates attracted the scrutiny of law enforcement and telephone companies. In 1972, Draper was arrested for toll fraud related to his use of the Blue Box. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, during which he worked as a computer programmer.
After serving his probation, Draper continued to work in the technology industry and remained involved in various aspects of computing and telecommunications. He later co-founded an information security company called L0pht Heavy Industries, which focused on cybersecurity.
John Draper’s contribution to the early hacker community and phone phreaking culture left a lasting impact on the history of computer hacking. His innovative use of the Blue Box to explore the phone system and his role in popularizing the concept of “hacking” influenced subsequent generations of hackers and computer enthusiasts.
Today, John Draper is remembered as a legendary figure in the world of computer security, telecommunications, and hacker culture. His early exploits laid the groundwork for the cybersecurity industry and the ongoing efforts to secure and protect digital networks.