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Just another software developer with opinions

How Did You Get That Number?

The signs and symptoms of a breached computer system

May 24, 2019 ยท 2 min read

One day, a friend needed to send me an important document. Due to the nature of this document, it meant express delivery, with my signature on receipt, and my phone number in case the delivery guy forgets how to read apartment numbers.

The package was sent, tracking number received, and expecting delivery in a few days. Typical express shipping stuff. Not my first time dealing with this kind of package, but they can get really fussy at times. Anyways, midway through the delivery.

A call came in.

I checked tracking, nothing looks out of the ordinary. The package is inbound, in the air, in clear skies, and half-way through its journey. The number is not a contact of mine, nor is it a local number. So it can't be someone I know. But this call was special because:

  1. I used a burner number as contact number for the delivery.

  2. I only gave that number to one person.

  3. This call went through that number.

A burner number is a generated, virtual, disposable number. It shares the same concept as a "burner phone", which is a cheap, disposable, prepaid phone. Both are perfect for privacy. They're not your real phone number, nor are they tied to your name. And when you're done with them, you just throw them away.

While I trust this friend, I don't trust the delivery service, specifically their servers. They could be compromised, leaking personal information without anyone noticing. They could also be selling personal information in backroom deals. If you think about it, how else did spammers get that number?

The delivery was successful, but the fun did not end there.

The delivery date was past the expiry date of the burner number. I had to pay extra to keep the number for a few more days. In those days, I watched the spam calls come in. Some even leave automated voice mail which are fun to listen to at times.

Whether it's a delivery service, a government agency, a bank, or that ice cream shop down the road. The next time you plan to give your phone number, take a second to think about where it will end up the moment it hits their servers. That next spam call might just be a symptom of a bigger problem.

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