Free SMS’s – Hacked software circulates on the net

Reports have been surging recently of some form of “hacked” — especially prepared — software that enables anyone with an internet connection to send free sms’s to any mobile phone in the world.
After intensive investigation, our research department (i.e. me) has come across such program and can confirm the rumours: it works.
In the 90’s, after the original idea, if I’m not mistaken by Mirabilis (ICQ), the concept of pc-to-mobile messages has sprung dozens of online companies willing to offer the service free of charge. In return, advertisement was placed either on the provider’s website or embedded on the messaging application. After the .com burst, like most other “genius” ideas, it went bust and most services closed their doors due to the high cost charged by mobile operators.
More recently, started to offer the same kind of service: free sms texts to anyone in the world. It even includes your own contacts book and also a poor attempt at replicating the flourishing “social-networking” services, such as Orkut or Hi5. The downside of their product is a very low reliability (90% of my texts don’t get delivered) and an annoying obsession with self-promoting the service by automatically sending invitation e-mails to anyone on your address book, just a thin line below being considered an internet spamming worm.
Now, there have *always* been ways to send free sms messages. There are several open-relay gateways on the internet, just no one seems to know about them. The protocols used also only allow savvy computer experts to usefully use them anyway. The software in question here is probably using one or more of these “hidden” gateways to deliver the service, but however it does it, it delivers results. It also installs an annoying tool bar to your web browser, if you are not careful enough to remove that option on install.
I feel tempted to post a direct URL to download the aforementioned software, but after seeking legal and expert advice I have to refrain from doing so for the time being.
(I’ll give a hint to those computer hackers to try to decipher it: d3d3LmNyYWNrc29mdC5uZXQ=)
Meanwhile, our Chief Reengineering Officer (i.e. Bytter) is in charge of looking inside this system and extrapolating exactly what it does, what servers and protocols it uses.
If we ever get that we might, maybe, just share it with you!

Well, the reverse engineering seems to reveal the sms messages are not free. It is even worse than we expected: they are charged to the recipient.
The software seems to route information through a pay service, charging £0.35 or €0.50 per message received. I cannot imagine the consequences if this kind of software fell on the wrong hands (it must have already). I would really advise everyone to contact their mobile phone operator and request these kind of messages to be blocked before reaching their mobile straight away. Mobile phone operators, at least in the UK, are not responsible and will not refund any charges for the reception of value-added messages such as this one (or any other one for that matter, including ringtones).

Update 2:
Found out about a FireFox extension that allows you to send SMS’s within the award-winning browser.

Update 3 (03/04/2006):
The same service that brings you mobile phone location tracking in the UK promises to deliver up to 10 free sms messages a day. What’s the catch I ask? Lost of privacy probably…