Does that necessarily mean that there are no terrorist communications happening, or does it simply mean that terrorists have found other effective ways to get their twisted plots across continents? The advent of prepaid calling cards and the proliferation of Voice over IP telephony have made mobile phones almost irrelevant.
In a case study, a prominent telecom company A discovered that several thousand dollars worth of phone time had been purchased using stolen credit cards. Despite extremely heavy security, this company still succumbed to the effective measures of people who were clearly bent on obtaining airtime. The subsequent tracking of IP’s indicated that not only had the orders been placed using heavy IP masking, but that they originated from hacked computers and the traced ended in Lebanon. Careful analysis of the Call Records (CDR’s) indicated that hundreds of phone calls had been made using the same prepaid account to a number of high threat countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, UAE, and a few European countries.
One of the more interesting points in investigating the originating phone numbers was that most of them were fake. With Internet technology, directing and redirecting calls from one IP to the next is as easy as looking it up on Google. Indeed, with VoIP you can easily have a local New York phone number literally anywhere in the world.
The intent was to hide any and all trace of the conversations. The extent of this operation is unknown; however it is certain that companies that had lax security measures lost thousands of dollars. The chargeback’s from the customers always hit the merchants. What is certain is that people are making phone calls to countries that harbor terrorists using stolen credit cards and high tech methods of masking the origin of their outgoing phone calls.
The FBI was duly notified and a subpoena issued for the CDR’s. However it is not certain how much headway the FBI had into the case. Most telecom companies protect the identities of their clients and their CDR’s be they peaceful citizens or hell bent terrorists. Unfortunately there is also no effective law that provides for timely gathering of much needed sensitive CDR’s. Hence the answer to where has all the chatter gone can be answered using prepaid calling cards and VoIP protocols that have made it possible to completely mask phone conversations and take the chatter underground.