[ISN] Celebrity 'phone hacking' on the increase

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Oct 16 2002 - 00:24:58 PDT

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    Julia Day
    Monday October 14, 2002 
    PR advisers to the rich and famous are warning their clients to be on
    their guard amid claims that journalists are resorting to increasingly
    underhand methods to hack into celebrities' mobile phones.
    As competition for celebrity stories increases, unscrupulous
    journalists are using hacking techniques to beat their rivals to
    According to one well known PR man, some journalists are even tapping
    into phones to sabotage their rivals' chances in story bidding wars by
    deleting messages.
    Hacking into strangers' mobile phone voicemail boxes is a relatively
    simple process but can only be used if the mobile phone user has not
    personalised his or her voicemail access code.
    "There is a certain element in Fleet Street that sees this as a new
    form of investigative journalism and it's getting worse," said James
    Herring of Taylor Herring Communications, whose clients include
    Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, Neil Morrissey and Caroline
    "We always advise our clients to change the default pin number on
    their mobile phones straight away as this bars strangers from
    accessing their voicemail.
    "But now not only are celebrities being targeted, as journalists trawl
    for stories, but so are the people negotiating bids for stories.
    "Newspapers are accessing people's voicemails and deleting the
    messages left by their rivals.
    "This started as a dirty tricks ploy by the red-top Sunday papers but
    voicemail espionage has become epidemic."
    Oliver Wheeler of Freud Communications, whose clients include Natalie
    and Nicole Appleton and Geri Halliwell, said the tabloids were not the
    only ones indulging in the practice.
    "I advised all our clients to make sure they changed their pin numbers
    after I saw a journalist accessing someone else's voicemail. I was
    stunned - he was a senior business journalist," said Mr Wheeler.
    James Hipwell, the former Daily Mirror City Slicker, who now works for
    celebrity PR guru Max Clifford, said this tactic was now common
    practice in Fleet Street.
    "There are many stories every week - mainly showbusiness - that
    couldn't have been got by any other means," he said.
    "It's underhand and it's not encouraged but it is common practice and
    everyone does it."
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