back to article UK tabloid in phone hacking probe

Newspapers owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch have been accused of secretly paying over £1m to settle three cases involving the alleged use of illegal phone tapping against celebrities. News Group reporters allegedly hired unscrupulous private investigators to gain access to mobile messages, as well as bank statements and tax …


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  1. Mr Larrington


    ...what worries me is not so much that the News Of The Screws is doing this - it's not so different from raking through dustbins or taking photographs of minor royals using a lens the size of a 155mm howitzer - but that the phone companies' security is so crap that even private eyes and Filthy Lying Journalist Scum can do it.

  2. Wokstation

    But they gave consent! No, they did!

    See, by owning a phone they were giving implied consent to be intercepted! So it's all ok and alright and above-board and no-one will get in any trouble at all because there was no intent to break the law!

    Well, it worked for BT and PHORM...

  3. Seanmon
    Big Brother

    The ironic part

    was Fat Boy Prescott coming over all indignant on the radio this morning. How do you think WE feel under New Lab, John? Mass communication surveillance still a good idea?

  4. Grease Monkey Silver badge


    Silly question, but how does a PI manage to tap into mobile phone conversations?

  5. Man Outraged

    EU Infringement Proceedings already underway

    Erm, has anyone at the Gruan put 2 + 2 together and made 3.14159265?

    Full circle dudes, there's ALREADY EU infringement proceedings initiated against the EU for inadequate protection for ordinary citizens against wiretapping and other electronic surveillance of communications. Erm, one of your own guys wrote about it:

    (But El Reg coverage better).

    Met police refused to act against BT when they intercepted thousands of private web sessions in the name of advertising.

    There is NO protection in the UK for ordinary people against the commercial snoopers.

  6. Andy 97



    and again I say ha!

    if you cut back on real journalists you get sensationalised stories like this.

    I wonder every day why people buy/read/watch anything by News International.

    Our media is the laughing stock of the world, imagine anyone being able to criticize China/Iran/Russia now.

    What an f-wording joke!

  7. Paul Gomme

    Can someone tell me why...

    Could someone please explain why the police want to get involved in this, when they wouldn't lift a finger about BT and Phorm's illegal interception of people's web browsing?

  8. Anonymous Coward


    Wouldn't the government say that if you had nothing to hide then you would have nothing to worry about...?

  9. nichomach
    Big Brother

    OK, points for catching up with...

    ...The Guardian, but we all know that this inquiry will go NOWHERE. We've seen that BT don't get prosecuted for violating RIPA and the DPA, I doubt that anyone in's going to grow a pair and take on News International. The laws are there to be used against the people, not to protect us.

  10. Julian I-Do-Stuff

    Nothing to see here...

    Why didn't the police notify the thousands whose communications had been illegally intercepted, why didn't they investigate further (other journo's, editors, rags, tags and plodtails)?

    Obviously everything was perfectly above board... being celebrities etc. they were deemed to have given "implied consent". And no doubt the Home Office was reassured by News of the Screws editors etc. - who were, after all, only thinking of the(ir) children(s' school fees) - that they'd taken legal advice,etc. etc. etc.

    Right now I'd like to see the MET's share price...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    What none of the articles appear to mention is what form this "hacking" took. Did the PIs bug the celebs' handsets, bribe network staff to access the call records, or exploit an actual vulnerability of some sort? If there's a vuln, then I'd find its existence more newsworthy than the fact that journalists have been using it to track famous people.

  12. RichyS

    Lots of Vague Information

    So, what's really allegedly supposed to have happened here? Is it actual wiretapping and interception of live conversations (which would be quite hard), or simply listening to messages in someone's mobile voicemail box -- really quite simple.

    Is the latter actually wire tapping? I can listen to my mobile voicemail from any phone by calling my voicemail box and entering my PIN. Anyone else with my number and PIN can do the same. I suspect most people haven't changed their default PIN. And it's probably the same for people on other Operators too.

    So, is this wiretapping? I suspect not. It's just being sneaky. We need more information, El Reg.

    As for John 'Two Buffets' Prescot -- it's not nice is it? So why are you and your party so keen on wiretapping every citizen's phone? John: if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear...!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Voicemail PINs....

    ...are clearly not regularly changed from the default.

    That was how the previous Gooding and Mulcaire case happened, it's highly likely that the same thing has been going on with these other cases.

    Surely each new mobile contract should come with a security guide and recommended steps to be taken to provide reasonable security for the phone user.

  14. bertie bassett

    It's how voicemail works

    Dial my own mobile number, let it go to vmail, press #, enter my pin and listen to my messages being played back.


    Apart from the duckwit 'celebs' that never changed their Vmail PIN's - more fool them then. Can't really see it's worthy of the term hacking nor a visit from Inspector Knacker

    Surely at some point a celeb/politico got a bis sus when he heard "you have 0 new messages and 27 read messages.."


  15. The Mole

    Does Coulson deny impropriety?

    Where does Coulson deny impropriety? All he says in that quote is that he has no knowledge of payments being made as they happened after he resigned. He doesn't deny knowledge of why the payments may be needed.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Please leave a message after the tone.

    Its hardly hacking !!

    For example :- T-Mobile

    Call the target mobile and go to voice mail.

    Press *

    Enter last four digits of mobile (default password)

    Your in....

  17. Chris Miller
    Big Brother


    I'm guessing, but I think you're right and that lots of people are currently working their way through many levels of menu to change their voicemail PIN from 1234.

    Having said that, mobile providers (in Europe, at least) are *required* to provide wire tapping services (search for 'Lawful Interception' and 'ETSI'), although this is supposed to be restricted to duly authorised law enforcement agencies. How hard it would be to subvert this process by inserting your own stooge inside the phone operator (or corrupting an existing person), I have no idea (-;

  18. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    from my understanding...

    Reading around a few blogs it appears that "wiretapping" may be an overstatement. The problem may be that thicko politicians did not change the default passcode on their mobile phone voicemail accounts.

    So the story may be more like "journalists behaved unethically" . Shock horror.

    Except that someone who onced worked with said journalists (editor for a while) is now advising Cameron.

    Hence Prescott, Clarke and the other disgraced and failed politicos have smelled blood, and are trying to get their revenge for the whole McBride email thing. Guilt by (very loose) association for Cameron. That kind of thing.

  19. syber

    bring justice back

    I am currently under confidential agreement with a murdoch company to not ask that anyone be charged or be a complainant against them in any criminal proceeding. This because I was a victim of crime. Murdoch's money goes a long way in litigation to keep crime victims silent.

    Our justice system in the US is no longer interested in learning of criminal violations anyway as I have written them as well. .

  20. kain preacher

    @Andy 97

    "Our media is the laughing stock of the world, imagine anyone being able to criticize China/Iran/Russia now.

    What an f-wording joke!"

    No sadly that distinction goes to the US. We have fox news. Blame the Aussies for Rupert Murdoch.

    On another note , when I worked for Voip company I could listen to peoples voice mail with out entering their pin. So before you slag on some for default pass words think about this . Does the phone company have a back door way to listen to voice mails? Do they have a back door way to reveal the voice mail password ?

  21. Wokstation

    What did I tell ya? NFA'd!

    Yup, no further action.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Apart from RIPA

    Other sources of information 'referenced' included

    * DVLA (well known for their pocket money activities if names and addresses need to be attached to cars - at twenty quid a time, a bargain)

    * the Fuzz computers (also well known, but probably a better grade of pocket money)

    * DWP (multiple instances of supposedly 'safe' addresses being reveled and probably a lot more)

    * telephone records (including 'friends and family lists from BT)

    * bank and credit card statements

    So - who is for a unified database - it would make life so much easier for scum like the News of the World - a one stop shop for everything the state knows about you, also much easier for the likes of Coulson as Himmler of the Tories to appropriate far better class of information for keeping whips in line, blackening the names of the opposition and blackmailing others in an inconvenient place.

    Does anyone really trust the Tories to not make use of the soon to be Home Secretaries power to combine information sources from multiple agencies without reference to Parliament? I don't.

    Welcome to the machine. It just show - Labour (McBride) a man at the shallow end of the gene pool trying his best (tries hard school report goes). The conservatives hire a better class of mendacious bastard.

  23. Steve Evans

    How depressing...

    That guessing a default voicemail password of 8888, 0000 or 1111 is now classed as hacking.

    Pity they didn't pick the number of the american ambassador or they'd be sitting on the plane next to UFO Gary.

  24. Moss Icely Spaceport

    Bring back the Tyburn Jig


    The Murdoch family have a long history of meddling in scuttlebutt, scandal and rumour.

  25. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    @ Chris Miller

    Usually the "legal intercept" capability (as it's formally called) is well protected in a telco, and I don't think that's what's happened.

    However, gaining access voicemail is even easier than forcing the password (which doesn't appear to have a lock by any provider so you can keep trying): depending on the system you can avoid the password altogether by spoofing the originating phone number and so pretend you're the actual "inhabitant" - that's a very useful "feature" of most VoIP setups..

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    I know someone who used to do this in the old days, using the default PINs to change peoples outgoing messages...

    He was a very silly person!

    iirc, Cellnet voicemail could be accessed by dialling 0802091901 followed by the mobile number. This meant that the handset wouldn't ring alerting the owner to the hilarity that would then ensue... Tapping in the default pin took you to the same menu you got from dialling 901 from the handset.

    It was all there in black and white in something called "an instruction book" - whatever that is!

    Paris - because i wouldn't need to read her instruction book.

  27. Dave Colborne

    Can of worms!

    They want this buried asap because the whole pack of rats is doing the same thing. I'm told (in the USA - probably the same here) that your phone can be listened to even if it is switched off - they even know where you are at all times. Your only privacy is to remove the battery or throw the darned thing away.

  28. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    The Met Strike Again

    The Met aren't going to investigate. After all to do so would be to admit there was something wrong with their original investigation. It will be fun to see their reaction should either of the other two enquiries find anything. Don't assume it will be a whitewash. Remember that Boris is one of the alleged victims and he is no friend of the Mets boss at the time of the original enquiry.

    On the subject of whether guessing a voicemail password in an offence. You should consider that it is an offence to gain access to a computer system without authorisation, voicemail is a computer system. Claiming that it's OK to access somebody's voice mail box because they didn't change the default password is nonsense. You would be amazed how easy it is to get into most houses without the keys. If somebody strolled into your house simply because they knew how to bypass your locks would that be OK?

  29. Paul 176

    can't believe you guys

    I can't believe the complacency of posters who think it's ok to see others' privacy invaded if they were 'stupid enough' not to protect themselves. Say that next time a cuddly old granny is robbed or killed because she allowed someone to talk their way into her home. The law should be there to protect you.

    I agree that it may not be 'hacking' as such, in the same way that I wouldn't really describe Gary McKinnon as a hacker because all he really did was determine default passwords. Nonetheless, look at the trouble he has faced. Personally, I'd like to see Myners et al from the Screws facing something similar. Of course there's no surprise that hacks were up to this en masse - bears shit in woods and Popes are Catholics, etc - but it sounds like the Met are not investigating pretty much because to do so would reveal the complicity of a whole bunch of Met officers who must have broken RIPA in any number of ways for bungs from Murdoch's petty cash. Now that's worrying.

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