A former News of the World employee has admitted to intercepting voice messages.
The trial of editor Andy Coulson, one of the seven former News of the World employees accused of phone hacking, heard from former reporter Dan Evans this week who admitted to conspiring to intercept voicemail messages. Mr Evans said that on one occasion in October 2005, Mr Coulson was played a tape, obtained via phone hacking, which revealed Sienna Miller, the girlfriend of British actor Jude Law, was having an affair with James Bond actor Daniel Craig.
"Hi, it's me. I can't speak, I'm at the Groucho with Jude. I love you." was the recording left on Daniel Craig’s phone, according to Mr Evans. Mr Evans also told the jury that, to mask how the reporters had obtained the tape, Mr Coulson came up with an elaborate plan which involved copying the recording and having it dropped off anonymously at the gates of the News Corp site in Wapping.
Mr Evans revealed that phone hacking practices had stopped at News of the World between 2006 and 2009 after the tabloid’s royal editor and private investigator were both arrested. Mr Evans said that, due to internal pressures to come up with front page stories, he returned to phone hacking in 2009.
Dan Evans is the fourth News of the World employee to admit to phone-hacking charges while Andy Coulson and the six other managerial staff on trial have denied all the charges.
A lot has changed in the world of mobile phones since 2005, but the way your voicemail inbox operates hasn’t. I recently changed from Vodaphone to Telstra and my voicemail, which I have to ring into, currently doesn’t ask me for a pin code. While Telstra tells me that this system is 100% secure, I’m not sure I could ever trust a system without additional security protocols in place. As with my personal email inbox, my voicemail wouldn’t have anything recorded that was considered sensitive information, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t care if someone accessed it illegally.
In the UK, the main problems arose in the voicemail hacking around the use of well-known default pin codes for voicemail access. On the majority of networks in the UK, with similar practices still in-place in Australia, your network will recognise that your phone is making the call and not require you to enter a pin code to retrieve your messages. While in Australia you are now required to set up a pin code on activation, in the UK during the phone hacking scandal period, this wasn’t the case and default pin codes were set on every voicemail box. The use of default pin codes has now been discontinued in the UK and Australia as a result of the allegations surrounding these hackings.
Logging into voicemail from another phone isn’t new. Just this morning to test the system, I used my pre-set pin code to log onto my mobile phone’s voicemail via my landline. I could have used the 1800 number Telstra has set up to do this, but instead, called my own phone, let it go to voicemail and then pressed the # button on my phone which asked for my pin. This was the main method used during the phone hacking scandal in the UK, although the symbol they had to press was *.
In the UK, when a journalist couldn’t access the phone of a target due to a pin code already being set, they would call up the Telco, using the public information records of that person to confirm all the security questions, to get the pin code reset. This is still a very real possibility.
In an article addressing the issue of phone spoofing (where you trick the voicemail service into believing you called from any number you like) on Australia’s three largest telcos, one of the three said that spoofing was not possible on their network while the others were still looking at options to address the issue or simply ignored the issue.
The Australian telecommunications industry needs to put into place a requirement that a pin code must be used to access a voicemail box, whether calling from an external phone or the linked mobile phone itself.
Should those responsible at News of the World spend time behind bars for their extreme invasion of privacy? Do you feel that your mobile phone voicemail box is secure? If not, will you do anything to remedy this lack of security?
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