Recent reports in The Guardian and The Independent, largely overshadowed by current events in Egypt, return to the phone hacking scandal and a renewal of the investigation into illegal activities performed by or on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. It is important to note that, with the exception of what apparently happened to Nick Brown’s landline, what we are talking about is not wiretapping, rather it is cracking the (poor) security of voicemail systems to access recorded messages without authorisation.
In spite of years of denials of involvement, Andy Coulson has resigned as Director of Communications for Prime Minister David Cameron. News International has fired assistant editor Ian Edmondson. While the London Metropolitan Police have finally been spurred into a new and hopefully more complete investigation. Celebrities and politicians seem intent on taking the News of the World to court for numerous breaches of their privacy.
My interest in this case is twofold.
Firstly I want to know if these activities are limited to News of the World or if they have been used by other News International or News Corporation organisations. In particular I want to know if these practices have been employed in the United States or here in Australia.
Secondly I am interested, as a professional geek, in methods of maintaining private communications. Upon the realisation that the so-called hacking was simply accessing a voicemail system, the solution to that problem was readily apparent: move the voicemail system from something under the telephone company’s control to something under one’s own control. It’s actually fairly straight forward to do with solutions available right now. Essentially it just involves forwarding missed or unanswered calls to a PABX (e.g. Asterisk) and then accessing that voicemail in a more secure manner, such as via HTTPS on any smartphone.
So I will continue to watch the case with interest and how far it does or doesn’t spread throughout the Murdoch empire. As well as seeing just how low the muckrakers will stoop for a scoop.