For a long time I’ve thought that the first public mention of the phrase “blue box” was January 9, 1966. A New York Times article by UPI described FBI raids on organized crime bookmakers in Florida and New York who were using the devices both to avoid long-distance charges as well as to leave no traces of their telephone calls in billing records. The latter was important because one of the FBI’s main tools against organized crime was obtaining toll-call records on suspected mobsters to see who they called. Through this process the FBI could build up a network map of the bad guys and know who to investigate or arrest.
(Hmm, come to think of it, the FBI's efforts to collect toll-call records were in some ways a less-disturbing, lower-tech forerunner to the NSA's alleged "Stellar Wind" metadata collection program that was recently described by Newsweek. And I suppose both of them are forms of traffic analysis.)
But I digress. Just this week I found a mention of blue boxes in this 1963 talk by F. J. Moses, General Security Coordinator of American Telephone and Telegraph Company, at that year's International Association of Chiefs of Police conference. I think this is an interesting paper for several reasons. First, it describes the distributed structure of the Bell System and touches on the challenges of coordinating security across a bunch of fairly independent companies. Second, it brings out the difference between credit card and third-number fraud vs. electronic toll fraud. (More on this in another post, but it’s worth noting that credit card and third-number fraud was vastly, vastly larger than electronic toll fraud.) Finally, it hints at the sometimes close (sometimes too close), sometimes rocky relationship between AT&T and law enforcement. It’s only a few pages long and worth a read.