How the News of the World hacked people’s voicemail (and how to stop it happening to you)
How to protect your voicemail from being hacked
Because by default, no password is needed to access voicemail when the Caller ID is correct, the only way to prevent your voicemail from being hacked into is to setup a password even when calling from from your own phone. You can do this from your phone’s settings screen.
Of course, this is annoying, as it means you have to enter a PIN every time someone leaves a message that you legitimately want to hear, but if you’re serious about protecting your privacy, you have no choice.
Even more annoying, you’ll need to come up with a random four digit number that you’re unlikely to remember, as birthdays or special dates can be easily guessed. Just remember – you’re unlikely to remember it!
If you have remote voicemail setup, change the password, and change it now.. Every operator has a help page showing how to do this. If you don’t have remote voicemail setup, then don’t set it up now – you’ve never used it before so you won’t miss it, and it’s not enabled until you explicitly set it up.
Am I safe now?
Unfortunately, changing your voicemail PIN will not make you completely safe. Other services give away as much, or sometimes more, personal info than voicemail messages.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media apps, for example, are extremely easy to intercept when you’re in an open WiFi zone such as Starbucks (just check out the Firesheep extension on Firefox to see how easy it is, and why you should always use SSL when logging into these services).
Talking of open WiFi zones, some hackers will even setup a spoof WiFi hotspot with the name of a popular service, such as BT Openzone. If you use BT Openzone, your phone will connect to it automatically, just because it recognizes the name.
Both you and the phone are fooled, and everything you subsequently send over the network can be intercepted and read with impunity by the hackers.
Stop it, you’re scaring me!
Ultimately, there are and always will be many ways your privacy and private messages can be compromised. But that’s what the law’s for. Hacking into someone’s voicemail, spoofing WiFi networks, and breaking into social media accounts is all illegal.
That doesn’t mean people won’t do it – people still break into houses, and that too is illegal. But it does mean that when all the technical safeguards fail, there are still ways of getting justice, even if it is many years after the offence!
So all I’ve offered here is a very brief overview of the things you can do to protect yourself from unwanted intruders. If nothing else, the News of The World scandal has shown just how important phone security has now become – and how valuable the info we share every day has become to us.