How not to get your phone hacked

In the wake of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal some major news organisations have sent out emails to journalists and other members of staff advising them to protect their phone against hacking.

As this blog post by mobile phone security expert David Rogers points out, hacking is a misnomer. What went on at News of the World was “illicit access to voicemail messages”.

Rogers’ post points out various methods that could have been used to do this. Here are ways to keep your voicemail secure. Okay, so it is unlikely that journalists will be voicemail-hacking in the future but conmen and women may now have ideas.

How hacking took place:

1. By using default PINs

Mobile phone voicemail boxes are set up so they do not require a PIN or use one of several default codes which can be worked out by a two minute internet search.

Solution:┬áYou’ll need to set up a PIN by following the advice from your phone company. There are step-by-step instructions on how to do this for Vodafone, O2, Orange, and T Mobile. A quick search will help you if you are with an alternative carrier.

You can also set up or change your voicemail password on your handset. (On an iPhone this is found in settings / phone / change voicemail password.)

2. By using default PINs and remote access

Rogers explains in his post:

Operators often provide an external number through which you can call to access your voicemail remotely.

This was one of the mechanisms allegedly used by the News of the World ‘phone hackers’ to get access to people’s voicemails without their knowledge.

Solution: Find out the remote access number for your voicemail from your phone provider and set up a PIN using the links above.

3. By calling your own phone

When you want to access your voicemail remotely you can do so by calling your own phone number and interrupting the voicemail message by pressing *.

Rogers points out:

Claims about the voicemail hacking scandal say that one journalist would call up a celebrity to engage the phone while another would then go into the voicemail using this method.

Solution: Set up a PIN using the links above.

There is more advice and a more detailed explanation on how voicemail hacking took place at this link.

This Mashable post on how to protect your phone is also worth reading, particularly if you are an Android user.

Image by John Karakatsanis on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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