One thing that’s not being asked in this phone hacking scandal, is how did the hackers get into people’s voicemail? Is it some technically complex technique involving getting into the computer systems of the mobile phone network?
Largely, no. Much of the time people are accessing the mailbox in the same way a user can. When we get a new mobile phone account the voice mail is programmed to a default setting, including a default password with which you can “manage” your voicemail from a landline. A lot of the time voicemails were intercepted by journalists and investigators trying their luck with default and guessable passwords. It’s probably not the only way voicemails can be access, but it’s by far the easiest one.
The blame for the hacking, of course, lies firmly with the private investigators and journalists that accessed the phones, and the editors who either condoned the techniques or accepted stories with dubious sources without asking sensible questions. But there are ways that people can minimise the risk. Simple ways.
The message here is: set the pin on your mobile phone. Don’t rely on being to boring for anyone to take an interest in, you never know how things may turn out. Don’t rely on the media turning over a new leaf either, there will probably always be someone devious enough to try this trick on you.