News of the World Phone Hack Victims Unfold More Names

Jay Decenella, IT audit expert
July 12, 2011 /

Reports that stormed the news feeds last week about the alleged phone hack into murder victim Milly Dowler formed only the tip of the iceberg as British authorities identified some more big names.

Actor Sienna Miller, comedian Steve Coogan and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire host Chris Tarrant, were no exception in what has been described by the media as abominable act by the now defunct News of the World that has been shut down last weekend. These names added to the growing list of public figures who have taken legal action against News of the World over phone hack allegations.

Only few from the thousands of possible victims of the phone hack perpetrated by News of the World private investigator Glenn Mulcaire have been named, who were categorized into three.

The first group included those whom the Scotland Yard approached to warn about the unauthorized access into their voicemails. Some of them were warned as early as 2006 when the inquiry into the phone hack was first launched.

Scotland Yard refused to disclose the number of individuals that it warned, but added that it has approached and warned people in four ‘national security’ categories if there was enough reason to believe their voicemail might have been hacked. These people included members of the royal household, the military, the police and the government.

The second included those who have approached Scotland Yard, asking it whether the police had any evidence that they were targeted by Mulcaire.

Based on the phone records held by the Scotland Yard, a considerable number of people had their voicemails accessed without authority. A spreadsheet that contained mass of paperworks, audio tapes and computer records confiscated by police authorities from Mulcaire showed 4,332 names or partial names; 2,987 mobile phone numbers; 30 audio tapes with varied lengths; and 91 PIN codes used to access voicemail.

Only a few of the targeted individuals changed the factory settings on their mobile phones.

The last group included 120 people identified by three mobile phone companies to have followed up on Scotland Yard’s original investigation. It was found that some of their users had had their voicemail breached from numbers used by Mulcaire.

Vodafone said it warned customers ‘as appropriate’ based on the list of possible victims, while O2 said it warned all of their customers whom it identified to have been hit by the phone hack.

Cyber crime using mobile phones is nothing new since the start of a surge in smartphones. Last April, Apple faced privacy infringement charges for collecting iPhone users’ location data in which the tech giant could find out the customer’s location at any given moment, the same issue that hounded search giant Google.

In December last year, an investigation conducted by the Wall Street Journal revealed that smartphone applications in iPhone and Android could transmit a user’s age, gender, location, other personal information and the mobile device’s unique ID to advertising companies.

The study was conducted on 101 popular smartphone applications for iPhone and Android phones tested. The test turned out that 56 smartphones transmitted information about the mobile device’s unique ID to ad companies, 47 transmitted location of the phone, while 5 transmitted the users’ gender and age to third-parties, without the iPhone users knowing the data breach.


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