DPC urges the public to secure phones against hackers

22 Jul 2011

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Following steps taken by eMobile, Meteor, O2, Three and Vodafone to secure voicemail security, the Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has urged the public to follow the advice of their mobile operators on protecting their voicemail messages.

Hawkes described the mobile operators’ response to the issue – in the fallout of the phone hacking scandal surrounding the News of the World tabloid – as exemplary.

The initial suggestion of the Commissioner was to make remote access to voicemail an opt-in service but he is now satisfied that the steps taken or to be taken will achieve the same common goal of better protecting customer data.

“I am pleased that the mobile networks have shown real leadership in this area and have now all put in place or have committed to put in place in the coming days additional measures to assist their customers to protect the data on their phones,” Hawkes said.

“It is now important that the public follow the advice of their mobile provider and where they have not already done so take steps to either secure their voicemail and phones generally or improve upon the measures they may have already taken. 

“At the end of this process it will no longer be possible to access a person’s voicemail using a default password,” Hawkes said.

The companies have outlined to the office the following steps they are taking and customers should now follow the advice provided by their respective provider:

Meteor and eMobile

No default security PIN is applied and every customer is required to choose their own secure PIN when enabling voicemail. In an effort to encourage customers to take proactive steps to secure their voicemail service they have enhanced the information contained on both websites with additional details and guidance on how to secure voicemail services. Additionally, an educational SMS will be sent to all voicemail users in the coming days. Customers can strengthen their password today by dialling 171 (both Meteor and eMobile) and follow the instructions.

O2

O2 has commenced a programme of communications with customers to advise on how they can keep access to their voicemail secure at all times. The communications will include text messages to customers and a pre-recorded advisory when customers dial into their voicemail service to retrieve messages. O2 has also updated its website with a range of security tips in the "Can we help you today?" section on the homepage. Customers can change their password today by dialling 173 from their handset and follow the instructions.

Three

Three is communicating to its customers the importance of securing their voicemail with a unique PIN known only to the customer.  The communications will include text messages to customers with advice on setting up a voicemail PIN. There will also be an Online Help & Support update to the section on Voicemail to advise customers on the level of security they should use when setting up their PIN. Customers can change their password today by dialling 171 (in Ireland) or +353 83 333 3171 from abroad from their handset and follow the instructions.

Vodafone

From tomorrow, Vodafone Ireland customers will hear information when they dial 171 on how they can change their voicemail password at any time. Voicemail and password information is also available today on Vodafone.ie. Vodafone will continue to inform its customers in the coming weeks on new enhanced security options available to its customers. Customers can change their password today by dialling 173 from their handset and follow the instructions.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com