A Timely Reminder: Passwords and Pin Codes Are Important

On June 24, 2014, a former editor of a now-defunct British tabloid newspaper (some will disagree with the use of the prefix “news”) was found guilty of phone hacking. Phone hacking is the practice of intercepting and listening to a phone’s voicemail messages without the owner’s knowledge or permission.

How did this happen? The technique used by the hackers was remarkably simple. In the first decade of the millennium, the time of the offenses, carriers had a default code for remote voicemail access: “0000” or “1234,” for example. If a phone’s owner never retrieved voicemail from any device other than the owner’s personal cellphone, the default code would never be changed. All the would have to do was know the mobile phone number of the target, follow the carrier’s technique for accessing voicemails from a different device, and then enter the carrier’s default number. Vodafone UK, for example, had a default of “3333.” It was incumbent upon the user of the phone to change this PIN.

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NOTE: This column was originally published in The Newsletter.

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