Rating: Industry buries its head in sand
A day doesn’t seem to go by without further revelations over the indulgence by the UK’s elite media in mobile phone ‘hacking’. And that is just it. There has been plenty of exposure about the fact that the mobile phones of celebrities and other news-worthy personalities were ‘hacked’ but little mention of the ‘how’ this was actually done. This isn’t the Nineties when it was possible to ‘listen in’ on analogue mobile phone calls. Everyone today in the UK uses GSM phones which are digital and the connexions are virtually un-crackable. No. What actually happened is that the vast majority of people’s GSM phones had voicemail facilities which were left wide open to infiltration. The question is – why wasn’t this gap plugged earlier and more openly exposed by the operators themselves?The latest revelations from the Milly Dowler affair – see The Guardian’s coverage here – are deplorable.
Journalists – via so-called ‘experts’ – were listening into voicemails being left on Milly’s voicemail mailbox. The voicemail mailbox filled up so journalists deleted earlier messages to create more room.
By doing so they created the illusion that Milly might still be alive because the messages were being listened to.
Luckily, this GoMo News hack was well aware of the dangers of UK mobile phone mailboxes long ago – having discovered how to retrieve voicemail messages whilst abroad. The necessity to create and set a password was made blatantly obvious by this requirement.
So, why didn’t the UK mobile operators spot this obvious security hole in their services earlier? It’s akin to the default remote access passwords which were foolishly built into commercial computer operating systems.
Once such lapses were exposed, the OS vendors made quite sure their customers were aware of the dangers and advised them to change default passwords.
Absolutely nothing like that has happened with UK mobile phone mailboxes. Still.
Consequently, UK mobile phone users have received no advice on how to protect themselves.
In some cases, by default an operator’s voicemail service even reads out the number of the phone which called in. A massive security hole if ever there was one.
All GoMo News can do is to advise readers to phone up their voicemail mailboxes right now and reset the password to something which isn’t even remotely guessable.