Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Area code 710 (wikipedia.org)
356 points by raldi on June 10, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 81 comments

When I was in college in the '80s, My roommate and I got curious about unused area codes (and/or prefixes? I forget). We started dialing some. Within about 15 minutes we stumbled on some government service with a scary-official sounding operator on the other end (I've no idea if it was this service or a different one).

The really scary part was after dialing the number and encountering the operator, we were unable to hang up (any time we hung up and picked back up, the operator was still there, even after waiting about two minutes). Fortunately this was (a) at MIT which still had a central electromechanical telephone switch for student phone lines in the '80s and (b) I had keys to the switch as a student phone repair tech.

I still remember grabbing my keys, running over to the switch, and physically pulling the relay contacts to release the call and prevent a trace to our location in case that was the motivation for holding the line (nowadays traces are digital and instantaneous, but when looking at old-school electromechanical switches you really did need time to trace the call physically through the relays).

Yes, we were aware the operator was probably just messing with us by showing he could hold our line against our will to discourage us from calling again, but it still scared the crap out of us just in case.

Very interesting story, curious if you remember the number. Reminded me of my favorite scene from Community: https://youtu.be/xx_MkKJPNjQ

My recollection is we were specifically curious about what today would be called invalid address space patterns, aka numbers that were outside the patterns used in valid phone numbers at the time (such as area codes could have a 1 in the middle digit but prefixes could not have a 1 in the middle in the 1980's).

We pulled out a paper phone book, devised a set of criteria for potentially interesting superficially invalid phone numbers, and started dialing them. On a rotary dial phone. And we found one pretty quickly. And it was a much scarier experience than we had expected.

The exact number we dialed is unfortunately(?) lost to the passage of time.

Here's a fun one: next time you get a new phone number (USA), ask for it to end in "9999". It's possible, but not without social engineering (or influence?).

When I last got a new cell number I got one ending in "5555" Annoyingly I use Google Voice so something like 6 people actually know my awesome number.

you can port out your number to google voice....

Telco used to charge extra for vanity numbers. c2000 I paid Qwest a few hundred for one.

Why is it restricted (and who to)?

Let's find out

Find out! :)

How is hanging up (creating an open circuit) different than pulling the relay (creating an open circuit)?

The phone circuit in the analog days was physical. It doesn't matter that it was open, the relays between one and and another were all connected and could be inspected.

It's analogous to finding the hardware corresponding to someone's network address by being able to inspect the routing tables of all the intervening routers. Even if they turn their computer off, you can still trace them back to the physical line.

IIRC you could send power to the relays from the calling side, which'd keep them latched even if the callee hangs up.

Even if the circuit is still open from the telco trunk to the dormitory switch, the link back to the specific extension that dialed out would be broken.

Sounds like someone had god mode

Maybe not so nefarious. Back in the 1980s the campus phone system at my university had a similar quirk: if you didn't hang up both ends of the call, the connection stayed open. A common DOS prank was to call someone and then just not hang up. Their phone was then unusable.

Ah yes. The old Dormphone system that was regularly hacked/extended in various ways and reverted in a pretty much never ending tug of war.

What was the conversation like? Was the operator trying to scare you off?

I had a friend in HS do this to me, I always attributed it to his father being pretty high up at a local newspaper ... ( The Netherlands )

I have a GETS account that uses this area code. You are given a credit card sized reference card with your PIN number to activate it.

There is also another service called WPS for cell phones where you get priority just by prefixing your number with *272, the only catch there is your specific phone needs to be enrolled.

More info on Wireless Priority Service(WPS): https://www.fcc.gov/general/wireless-priority-service-wps

Unsure if you can answer this, but this info is not utterly impossible to find by trial and error, so it's not concretely private.

Are you saying there's more than one 710 number? [Just Y/N]

Someone posted a reply to my comment a few minutes ago then deleted it. Proof: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14531411 / http://i.imgur.com/HcU8NgS.png - yes, looks like Arc completely hides newly-posted-then-deleted comments, very probably for aesthetic reasons.

In a nice bit of timing, HN Replies (my HN notifier) grabbed the comment before it was deleted! It was interesting, so I'm anonymously adding it below:


> I have seen first hand a large VoIP carrier reach out to an ITSP because one of their end subscribers was scanning the 710 number space either manually or not. And it was within a few minutes after the scan started. This type of activity (and others too) will set off all kinds of alarms at phone providers.

Are you a fire/police chief or in command of some public safety entity?

No, but I do work on what is considered critical infrastructure.

Power grid?

I assume the poster is intentionally not revealing their role. While I am also curious, having known people working in the defense industry, it's considered polite to not ask questions to things they aren't offering information about.

Well this is the internet, where we all have no way of sussing out subtle cultural differences between ourselves off a username. I say let the questions be asked, it causes no harm here.

Then it's weird to reveal that kind of connection on HN, a website about sharing links to sites in order to inform and teach the readers.

Then why the hell even discuss it?

The OP did not mention it on purpose. Let it be like that. A lot of people here have signed NDA's.

Just guessing from his/her previous submissions, but maybe something to do with DNS? Root servers? Something similar, maybe.

You can get these for all sorts of stuff. Not just secret squirrel things.

Running a critical network, supporting critical application, leadership of organizations that impact health and safety, key personnel at hospitals, etc.

Huh, I wonder why my comment above was downvoted. It seems like a very strange comment to downvote.

I have a GETS account too (I work in healthcare). T-Mobile provides WPS service free, whereas Verizon charges $5/month per enrolled line. More info here https://www.dhs.gov/publication/getswps-documents and https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/HOW%20I...

Little known fact: sometimes the other exchanges in area code 710 will translate to places going to military bases and such, depending on the time of year. The best way to tell is by calling 710-867-5309. If you get a recording saying "You are using <long distance provider>" followed by a not in service recording, well, it worked. If you'd care to look around random exchanges and thousand blocks, you might be in for a fun day. Or a knock at your door.

But yeah - it's all the luck of the draw. Some phone people have had varying levels of luck with other things involving that area code as well: http://www.binrev.com/forums/index.php?/topic/48478-weird-71...


I can't tell whether this is a joke comment.

It isn't; 867 is a valid translation, and -5309 is easy to remember. There's other, working numbers out there you'll eventually find if you look around.

Here are more docs on the 710 area code via a simple Google: https://www.google.com/search?q=%22710-NCS-GETS%22+card+ext:...

For example, this PDF explains a lot than anything present on HN or Wikipedia: http://chicagofirstdocs.org/resources/060912-GETS.pdf

Here's a doc that covers all US Federal emergency communications: https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/nifog-v...

Basically it sounds like GETS is QoS for land and wireless lines for critical or emergency personnel.

Every time I see posts like this on HN, I feel obligated to post http://www.evan-doorbell.com/production/

I originally discovered this guy from HN and the audio recordings on that site are mesmerizing to me.

The internet is amazing, hours upon hours of quality content about nothing else but telephone networks!

That was interesting, a telecom museum should make sure these recordings don't go missing.

I remember something in an old Phrack or another hacker zine where someone was recounting a rumor about this mechanism that he heard from someone who worked in a telco (viz., that there were special government phone numbers that were treated differently by the telephone system). It's interesting to see the progression from underground rumor to Wikipedia article.

There used to be a designation for landlines where they would be unlisted and have priority when there was congested outgoing lines or a shutdown.

I had a relative who was a public safety official. It was pretty wacky, they had an old school western electric leased phone, this magic line and other weird features like custom short codes that would hit "internal" extensions in the office.

At&t used to create new prospects for long distance by comparing both numbers in a call to its customers database.

If a number was not an active customer it was put in an outbound call list to solicit long distance.

The best story i remember was when the navy wanted to know why we called one of their nuclear submarines. This implied that the right 10 random digits contacted a sub.

Wait, you mean targeted advertising before the internet?

Blasphemy! We had integrity then!

Some numbers forward via DSN to "red phones" and what not. Please don't prank them or waste their time. I had a spouse social engineer the number to an overseas camp. It bloody rang the literal red phone used for CASEVAC operations on my helipad. Then she wanted to get pissed when I told her to hang up and call a civilian phone... "Well, don't you have call waiting?"... We are divorced now, of course.

The article mentions that individuals placing calls though GETS, with a valid access code, receive "alternate carrier routing, high probability of completion, trunk queuing and exemptions from network management controls". I find this fascinating, and it's hard not to wonder if any (rough) equivalent exists for government-related internet traffic. As in, perhaps some special/cryptographic data can be provided in network traffic data that ensures higher-priority treatment in an emergency or crisis, like GETS. Can anyone enlighten me here?

Presumably they just have dedicated fibre lines between critical infrastructure? With dedicated routing hardware

GETS supports modems and secured telephones (STU-III), which in turn support secure modem connections: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/STU-III

There are also VPN via VSAT connection too: http://www.vsat-systems.com/PDFs/VPN-over-satellite-large.pd...

Another odd area code is 500. Back in the 90's, I had a 500 number through AT&T. You could program it to "follow" you. Meaning that if, for example, someone called your number between 9a-5p M-F, it would ring your office. 5p-6p, your car phone. 6p-10p, your home phone, etc...

I suspect it got killed off because so many businesses were switching to cheapo, poorly-made, Winmodem-based PBXes that didn't recognize the area code.

> I suspect it got killed off because so many businesses were switching to cheapo, poorly-made, Winmodem-based PBXes that didn't recognize the area code.

No, it was actively blocked (not unrecognized) by lots of places because, like 900, it was caller paid (and, like 900, it saw significant upkeep for phone sex lines.)

AT&T replaced the service you describe with a similar service that was toll-free, and used the 800 area code, which (service, not area code) was also later discontinued.

I'm guessing don't try calling the number? Don't want to flood some poor government operator with internet trolls.

The Wikipedia page describes what happens when someone does call. I wonder if that was a priori knowledge or if the writer called to see what would happen and then shared his findings :P

Hopefully the former, since the latter would be "original research" and therefore against Wikipedia policy ;)

There's also no citation for that claim.

Makes me wonder if the call center will see the HN effect. I was tempted to call it just reading the article!

I'll just leave this here:

808-248-0002 - "Your GETS call is being processed. Please hold."

Is there anywhere else to read more about these kinds of special phone numbers? Something about the current state of phreaking?

I'm sure old issues of 2600 have a lot of articles on phreaking.

I used to red box a lot of old pay phones to get free calls using a tape recorder. Sadly there aren't too many phreaking hacks these days with everything moving to the cloud.

The internet

I imagine this was part of what was dialed in last week's Twin Peaks

> "the call is then redirected to a live human operator who then asks for the access code."

I feel bad for that operator

Why? The job is a job. I assume they have quite a lot of operators and they are crucial for certain processes which make their fairly simple job - a phone operator - crucial.

Sure, but now they're getting dozens of calls from curious HNers.

Why would people call? It's not a mystery what happens---they'll ask you for the access code, and do nothing else if you don't provide it.

It'd be a waste of time to call them.

I don't think you understand the breadth of legitimate responses to your "why" question. Lots of us called.

Oh, that's really interesting! What were you looking to find out, and what did they say?

> It'd be a waste of time to call them.

So's commenting on HN, but look how many of us do it!


There's lots of good lore about stuff like this in phreaker circles. I remember a story about someone who supposedly found some listings of 710 numbers including things like the presidents bunker and such. The folks answering the phones for some of these numbers were not amused and were also caught off guard by calls from kids asking to talk to the president and such.

I wonder what it's like being an operator on that line; is it mostly hours or boredom, punctuated by a few phone calls? Or is it actually busy throughout the day?

Same thing as being on the S/NES N64 support line. +1-800-255-3700

There's probably some little old Japanese lady with the full knowledge of the inner workings of 30 year old console hardware waiting for 3 calls a year.

I don't know how similar it is, but often for customer support lines and the like there'll be shared call centres. When someone calls in the operator is shown which company they're calling for and answers accordingly. I imagine its the same here with a pool of operators handling both this and other services.

Have you ever seen what a night security guard does?

Writes sufficiently advanced LISP compilers?

Theres no such thing as a sufficiently advanced lisp until we are at or beyond the singularity, yo.

> GETS is intended to be used in an emergency or crisis situation

Sounds like a major security problem, and during a crisis is especially when I would not like to have a buffer overrun.

Area code 710 is a special area code, reserved to the federal government of the United States in 1983. As of December 2006, it had only one working number, 710-NCS-GETS (710-627-4387), which requires a special access code to use. See Government Emergency Telecommunications Service for more information on this service.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact