Phone hacking… what is it? It sounds like it takes a great deal of expertise and technology to carry out… just like cyber attacks on Sony or Government websites…
Not as glamorous as it sounds
I’m not sure how they do it in the US or even in the UK, but here in ireland if you want to access somebody’s voicemail, you put a ‘5’ after the 08x prefix. So if my number is 0871234567 but you wanted to leave me a voicemail message (regardless of whether my phone is on or not), you’d dial 08751234567. That would mean you could avoid talking to me and if you’re smart, that little trick can rescue you from many situations.
Let’s say i get a text message from someone telling me to ring them back. That text message was sent at 12pm. It’s now 10pm and i just forgot all about it. Ooops. Well, i could leave a voicemail saying i just got their text message 10 minutes ago, it’s now 1pm and ring me back when you get a chance… So this then causes massive confusion. They’ll hear an automated voice saying the message was received at 10pm, but in the voicemail i’ve said it’s 1pm. Bug in the system? Phone acting up? Technology these days eh… just can’t trust it 😉
How they did it in my day
But no, that’s getting off topic… in order to ‘hack’ someone’s voicemail you simply press the ‘hash’ key before the voicemail message ends. You’re now effectively in the ‘login’ section. For some stupid reason, most phone operators leave the default password to voicemail at ‘0000’. Users are too lazy or uneducated to change it so now anyone who can google ‘phone hacking’ can become a hacker.
I knew about this back in the early 00’s, thanks to the internet. That’s how i found out about it. *#06# to get the imei number on a nokia phone, *#0000# to get the date of manufacture… there were loads of shortcuts and tricks like that. Back then, phones were actually used for calling people. So voice mails were pretty common.
Anyway, enter ‘0000’ and you could access somebody’s voicemail messages… you could change their password, you could even change their voicemail greeting One way to safeguard your voicemail against hackers WITHOUT changing your password was to set up a voicemail so short in length people didn’t have time to press the ‘hash’ key. This again caused massive confusion if you wanted to leave someone a message. You’d ring them up, hear nothing only a quick bleep and then silence…. that silence was being recorded and most people wouldn’t know it.
This shut down a newspaper
This small, simple hack shut down a newspaper today. Unethical? Yes, absolutely. Death penalty advocates would say it’s like stealing a car because the keys are inside it or walking in to a house because the door is open. It’s not like that… i’d say it’s more like eavesdropping on a conversation outside a random window which happens to be open. Maybe it’s a targeted window which happens to be open. The fact an entire organisation is being shut down because of a few desperate reporters is a tad unfair.