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Privacy and Security

Diallers are indeed a premium rate threat, not to your privacy, but to your pocket, and as they can be placed in your computer without your knowledge or consent, they are something else you should be aware of.

Originally a dialler was used as a way of paying for a product or service. Often the call was for a fixed length of time over a premium rate telephone number, creating a small fixed payment for a product without the need for a credit card. Others were used to pay for a service that the user agreed to pay for.

It is all perfectly legal providing the user agrees to the charges and the dialler being placed in their PC, but they are increasingly being placed into PC's illegally. Conmen are dreaming up new ways to get their dialler in your computer every day. They are raking in millions from unsuspecting victims. usually the first they know about it is when they receive their phone bill, although many telephone companies now contact the bill payer fairly quickly if there is a sudden rise in the bill due to premium rate numbers.

The dialler will change the telephone number used to connect you to the internet via a premium rate or international number, so each time you connect, the premium or international rates will apply, of which the owner of the number gets a high percentage of. When you consider this can be up to £1-50 per minute, it is easy to see how large telephone bills can accumulate, and how people with malicious intent can abuse it. They can quickly generate large bank accounts whilst their unfortunate victims are left to deal with the problems associated with an often large, unexpected bill.

A common symptom of being connected to the internet via a dialler is you will not be able to send e-mail as the premium rate connection is not configured for email.

Common methods of delivering diallers include-

A pop up box attached to a web site, see Drive by downloads

Secretly attached to a programme or application.

Attached to a loaded web page, the commonest places to pick one up are sites with 'Free' pornography, games, entertainment, ring tones, screen savers, cheats or codes.

A security warning, some use a simple javascript to display some contents of your hard drive and a few technical details, in an attempt to convince you that this information can be seen by anyone. Of course, their 'FREE' download will fix it for you ! ! !

Spam e-mails with an attachment, or a link to a 'loaded' web site. Don't forget these people will try anything in their attempts to get in your PC. From apparently serious consequences if you ignore them, to offers of 'FREE' entertainment, 'refused application', 'complaint against you', 'warning', 'surprise e-card from someone who likes you', 'Hi, we met the other night, here's the naughty pics we spoke about' are typical examples.

By exploiting vulnerabilities in operating systems and browsers.

By being attached to a trojan

Tracing the criminals is extremely difficult, it is common for the telephone line to be rented to a company registered in one country, who rents it to a company in another country, who rents it to someone else in a different country. and often they are a result of using 'the darker side' of the internet, someone who picks up a dialler after visiting a few porn sites or an illegal 'license code' site are usually reluctant to report it.
There have even been diallers that self uninstall, leaving no trace of ever having been in your PC.
Firewalls are presently unable to detect diallers, they work by checking the contents of 'packets' that pass through them, they do not check the telephone number that is used to connect to the internet.

Reduce your chances of getting a nasty surprise on your next phone bill.

Downloadable scanners that will detect and remove diallers.
A2 squared (Free version available)
Ewidow (£19.95, free trial/version available. Windows XP and 2000 only)
Pest Patrol ($39.95 approx. £23 Free scan)
Spybot S&D (Free)

Take steps to prevent them downloading in the first place.
Spywareblaster (Free) will prevent the download of (amongst other things) malicious Active X controls and diallers.
Dialerdetect, a free programme that will alert you when a new internet connection is being created.

Pay attention to the number that is dialled when connecting to the internet. This is sometimes displayed by your ISP software during the connecting procedure. You can also see what numbers are stored for use by clicking Start > Control panel > internet options. Click on the connections tab, and remove any you don't want or need, particularly ones that begin with 09 (premium), or 00 (international).
You can check a suspicious number that has appeared in your computer or on your phone bill, Click here,

Consider using broadband, a dialler cannot as yet, reconfigure a broadband connection, but if you use the Fax facility, voice calls or your dial up modem is still connected to the phone line, you are still vulnerable.

Most telecommunications companies can block premium rate and international numbers on your telephone line, contact them for details.

Keep your Windows operating system and internet browser fully updated.

Disable ActiveX controls, or set it to at least to prompt you that an ActiveX application is attempting to install. Help

If you have a dialler.
  • Contact your telephone service provider, e.g. BT, advise them a portion of your bill is as a result of a dialler and is disputed. This will trigger a series of events including investigations and a 'freeze' on that portion of the bill.
  • Contact ICTIS, the watchdog for telecommunications services and standards in the UK.
  • Make a copy of the file and re-name it, or keep it in quarantine if a scanner detects it.
  • You will be liable to BT for the charges incurred, If you are seeking a refund you will need to peruse it will the company that installed the programme. You may be able to trace them, using the Whois database to find out the company responsible, simply type in the web address or IP address that the dialler connects to.
  • Seek advice and help with recovering the money from a solicitor or Citizens advice
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