Vodafone contacting all customers about phone hacking threat

19 Jul 2011

Vodafone has confirmed it has launched a phased campaign to remind customers about changing their remote voicemail passwords from the default PIN ‘0000’ that makes it easy for hackers to access their voice messages.

The company is contacting its 2.2m Irish customers to ensure they are sufficiently informed about what they can do to protect their privacy.

It emerged over the weekend that the Data Protection Commissioner was in touch with the various mobile operators to have the remote access to voicemail messages removed altogether from mobile phones.

Mobile phone hacking is at the centre of the scandal surrounding the News of the World in the UK, where journalists paid private investigators to hack into the mobile phone messages of private individuals, including 9/11 victims, families of the 7/7 bombing victims and murder victim Milly Dowler.

Vodafone said today: “There has been widespread media coverage around unlawful access to voicemail services as a result of the phone hacking scandal in the UK.

“To remind customers about steps they can take to alleviate any voicemail security concerns, Vodafone Ireland has started a phased plan to contact all customers in the coming weeks to remind them to change from the default pin.

“Over the years, Vodafone Ireland has put in place additional measures to protect our customers and we are confident that our voicemail system is extremely secure.”

Remote access to voice messages has been a fixture of mobile networks since the 1990s and usually involves dialling a number, inserting a specific digit and then relying on default phone password settings to listen to the messages.

It means that if a phone user hasn’t changed the password on their messaging system on their phone from the default ‘0000’ setting, a perfect stranger can dial up and listen in. The only indication that your phone has been hacked is you have missed messages because they have been deleted after being listened to.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years