How phone records are stolen

There was no mistaking that this story had hit the fan after my interview with security consultant Rob Douglas was interrupted by another call on his second line from the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). (I don't mind noting that Douglas told the senator's guy that he'd have to wait.)

The sleazy sale of personal telephone records online has been a festering privacy issue for years, but Congress and much of the media awakened to the matter with an almost violent shudder last week after a widely circulated story in the Chicago Sun-Times. Multiple pieces of legislation were filed with an urgency reserved only for those injustices that touch the rawest of public nerves. Nelson is cosponsoring one such crackdown with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

For those just dialing in, here's the crux: A phone number and a hundred bucks can buy you a month's worth of call info for just about anyone - spouse, colleague, enemy, cop, FBI agent, you name it - in as little as an hour from dozens of Web sites (none of which I care to publicize). One blogger demonstrated the ease of these purchases by acquiring the cell phone records of Gen. Wesley Clark, a 2004 presidential candidate. The FBI had earlier done the same for one of its agents before issuing a bureau-wide warning about the threat.

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