BBC reports widespread invasion of privacy [Telecom]

According to BBC World News, the British newspaper "News Of The World" paid private investigators to breach voicemail security and listen in to messages left for politicians, celebrities, and businessmen of all kinds. Only one individual has been brought to justice so far.

How was it possible? It seems that very few cellphone users ever bother to change the "security" code assigned to them when they get their phone.

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Telecom digest moderator
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What saddens me is that the general public doesn't seem to have a problem with this.

There's a journalism magazine, "Columbia Journalism Review" (publ by Columbia Univ.) They often have articles on privacy vs. the "public right to know"; but all their commentators take a very strong position that the "public has a right to know" anything and everything, and thus reporters should have full and easy access. Personal privacy just isn't very important to them (except, of course, that a reporter has absolute privacy. Hmm.) They, and they alone, want to be the 'gatekeepers' to decide whether something should be revealed to the public.

As mentioned before, the coming of the Internet drastically changes the issue of personal privacy. Public records on people once languished buried deep in file cabinets in a single location and were very difficult to access--someone had to go to the particular storage site and then wade through piles of records. But now everything is computerized. That makes (1) searching and cross-referencing very easy, (2) access to information from remote places easy, and (3) release of _private_ information easy.

I find all that very disturbing.

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On the old Centigram voicemail systems, a new account defaulted to a

0000 passcode, which was the same as no passcode at all. People called in for v/m and the system never asked them for their passcode; it just asked them to press "P" to play messages. Lots of people, maybe 25%, just never bothered to set up a passcode, even though the first time through, they were walked through via spoken prompts. ***** Moderator's Note *****

For the average user, it's a reasonable choice: the only risk associated with someone listening to *my* voicemail is the chance they'll die of boredom. The system I use, however, demanded a password when I set it up, so the SA was more clueful than most.


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David Kaye

The voicemail at work requires us to periodically change our password.

This means I can't set up an auto-dial string at home to check my messages since the password changes. I had a string, with the appropriate pauses built in, to dial the voicemail number, enter my number and PIN, then request message playback.

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