Thursday, 28 July 2011

South Wales Argus phone hacking scoop in 1999

The South Wales Argus had an exclusive on how phone messages could be hacked in 1999.

It was alerted by Steven Nott, a Cwmbran sales manager, who told the paper he was horrified to discover that "anyone can access his answer phone service and listen to his private messages."

He explained: "The Vodafone network went down because of a technical fault. I had some important messages coming in, so I rang Vodafone to access them. I was asked by an operator if I had programmed a PIN number into my answer service. When I said I hadn't, I was told it didn't matter, that I all I had to do was key in the default number.

"I followed the instructions and was able to hear my messages. It was easy and had taken just seconds. Afterwards I thought that anyone with my phone number could get into my messages just as easily as I had."

The Argus added: "The angry marketing man even contacted the British Intelligence Service MI5. He said: 'Vodafone has millions of users, and many of them will be MPs and High ranking government officials, people with highly sensitive information at their fingertips'."

The Argus said it put Nott's claims to the test and by following his instructions was able to access a Vodafone user's personal message service. It added: "It proved the point. Anyone can do it."

Nott has kept the article and posted it on his website: Hackergate. He says "the article was run 10 months after I was aware of the problem and was my last resort. Thankfully, the Argus, helped."

  • Nott also says that he took the story to both the Daily Mirror and Sun in 1999 but after showing initial enthusiasm neither ran with it. He writes on Hackergate: " It didn't take me long to realise 'What had I done ?' I couldn't believe I was so stupid to tell a National newspaper how to get hot news for free just by hacking into someones phone".

Via Steven Nott on Twitter

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