Phonehacked by the Mail on Sunday > Gerald Kaufman, Tessa Jowell, David Blunkett & Edwina Currie in May 2000


This article was written on May 7th 2000 and shows that MP’s such as Tessa Jowell, David Blunkett, Gerald Kaufman and Edwina Currie were all made aware to the problems of phone hacking 13 years ago. Surprisingly, some had been ‘phone hacking victims’ and have received ‘substantial payoffs’ ( out of court settlements )  by Rupert Murdoch’s News International. Kind of makes you think, well, if they knew about it and the very fact they were vulnerable,  then one would wonder why they didn’t protect themselves from the problem in years to come. In fact, it beggars belief, that none of them did anything to stop the problem from escalating. I smell another cover up. Just another pointer, this evidence was submitted to Lord Justice Leveson and was ‘never’ brought up even though one of the names mentioned above was a witness at the Leveson Inquiry like myself. I’ve questioned Tessa Jowell on how she managed to get her self hacked considering she was warned about it and she said “She did all she could to protect herself” – ok fair enough answer….but didn’t do anything to protect everyone else though….when she was in the right position to do so.  She was appointed as Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport after the 2001 election. Gerald Kaufman however, at the time of this article was Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee

One would also think that the 2 journalists who wrote this story would have been called to the Leveson inquiry….

Christopher Leake and Daniel Foggo – In the words of David Bowie’s new song…”Where are they now ”

Here’s the full article. It makes VERY interesting reading…

By Christopher Leake and Daniel Foggo  

The reason the message systems are vulnerable to eavesdropping is that all new BT Cellnet and Vodafone mobile owners are given the same four digit access code. A MAJOR security flaw in britain’s mobile phone system can be exposed today.A special investigation by The Mail on Sunday reveals how millions of mobile users could, without their knowledge, have their private messages accessed by strangers.The onus is on individual users to input a new code. The vast majority of phone owners fail to do so – almost always, The Mail on Sunday has discovered, because they are simply unaware that such action is necessary.However, growing numbers of fraudsters, crooks and stalkers do know the secret. And it enables them effortlessly to access the sensitive phone messages of countless thousands of unknowing targets.All subscribers are vulnerable, including Cabinet Ministers, MP’s, VIP’s, businessmen and showbusiness personalities. In the City, financiers say they are horrified after discovering how easy it is to be ‘bugged’ by predators trying to get advance information about share deals and mergers. A team of Mail on Sunday investigators accessed the mobile messages of 12 VIP’s within seconds. They thanked us for alerting them to the problem – and joined calls for better warnings to be given by phone companies. One Cabinet Minister whose messages were insecure was David Blunkett, the Education Secretary. He said: “It is a very sensible warning and I will certainly be changing my code immediately. “I am surprised to hear anyone could listen in to my messages but on reflection it seems obvious and I ought to have known. I am kicking myself for not realising”. Employment Minister, Tessa Jowell said “I shall change my personal access code straight away and thank you very much indeed for tipping me off”. “I think it’s worrying and it is very important when people buy mobile phones, given that thousands and thousands and thousands of people every month buy them, that this kind of advice is provided.” At present, mobile phone companies include instruction leaflets on how to change access codes from the pre-set ‘default’ number. The Mail on Sunday has learned, however, that these leaflets are not always sent to customer’s automatically. Vodafone admits that customers often have to specifically request the leaflet detailing the procedure. It has had complaints from customers whose private messages have been changed. Industry insiders say only about ten percent of mobile owners bother to change the code once they get their phone, leaving more than 20 million users at risk. Users of Orange and One2One networks are unaffected, because subscribers are not given a universal default code. They have to call a number and key in their own code in order to access the message system. But for users of the two biggest networks,the security implications are startling. Our investigation began after we were contacted by a concerned City businessman who has worker for major merchant banks for more than 25 years. The businessman, who has asked for anonymity, told how he had been shown the procedure by a contact and was horrified. Later, when he realised it was already being used to eavesdrop on multi million pound deals and mergers, the City figure warned a wide circle of friends who, like him, immediately changed their mobile messaging service access codes. Later, he showed us how it was done. And, with prior agreement of his friends, we rang them, used the standard access code and listened in as their messages played. They contained a variety of personal and business messages, which, to an informed eavesdropper, might have been useful in making a profit on investments. Our financial consultant revealed how he had ‘Put the Fear of God’ into a friend who is chairman of a leading City bank after he allowed him to access his messages. He said: “The look on his face was one of total shock. He realised that he often talks business on his mobile and that somebody could access sensitive information that might affect huge deals”. The security of an alarming range of public institutions could be similarly compromised. Royal and Ministerial secrets could be discovered, for example, and the lives of military personnel could be endangered, or even lost, if details of forthcoming operations were divulged. Once the messaging system is accessed, infiltrators can also change the owner’s code while they are on the line so that the subscriber would henceforth be unable to hear their own messages. Also, the illicit caller can delete messages once they have been played back. We accessed the message systems of Gerald Kaufman MP, who had nine messages that he had already heard. Although our reporters did not listen to any messages, we could have accessed all of the voice recordings. When told of the loophole, My Kaufman said: “Goodness me. This is a matter of considerable concern and I’ll have to think seriously about changing my security number in the light of what you have told me. Thank you very much”. BT Cellnet said it included instructions on how to change access codes in it’s customer booklets. A spokesman said that instructions on how to use its messaging functions were included in the standard issue booklet How to Get The Most From Your Mobile Phone. “Like many other consumer products there is a default setting to get people started. We recommend in the literature that people change this number to a personalised one as soon as possible.” Vodafone issues a separate booklet about its Recall service. Customer service operators for Vodafone connect, which supplies service providers with literature to send to subscribers, admitted that the book on it’s Recall messaging service is not always included and needs to be expressly requested. One added: ” We have had complaints from people who have had their mailboxes accessed and the messages changed by other people.”A spokeswoman for telephone watchdog Oftel said last night: “This may be something which we need to have a look at. ‘If companies are not providing sufficient information, then that is something we might want to have informal talks with the mobile phone companies about’. 
Any confused customers should contact their phone company…….but don’t leave a message.

Stars who had no idea of the risks

We asked a team of reporters to call the rich and the famous in order to test properly the flaws in the mobile phone system. Out of 32 numbers called, we accessed the mobile message systems of 12 people. In every case, we ended the call before the messages actually played. Those whose message systems were accessed were yachtswoman Tracy Edwards, actor Shaun Scott, from The Bill, PR guru Lord Bell, author Edwina Currie, Education Secretary David Blunkett, Employment Minister Tessa Jowell and MP Gerald Kaufman. Tracy Edwards said “Oh, my God, I never knew” ‘I am very surprised at the news. They don’t tell you, do they  ? But it certainly makes sense to change your code” Shaun Scott who plays DI Chris Deakin in The Bill, said ” I had no idea that anyone could listen into my messages by just tapping in a simple code. ‘But I suppose, in this high tech electronic age, anyhting is possible. I will ceratinly be changing the PIN code. Lord Bell, who had no messages, said ” Nobody ever leaves sensitive messages on my phone. If they did, I would use a different system. Former Tory Minister and best selling author Edwina Currie had four messages. Though it would be irresponsible to divulge the access codes, entering other peoples’ message systems could not be easier. Systems vary slightly. But once you dial into the message service and tap in the code, you can listen in. To alter you code with BT Cellnet, dial, press button 8, insert a new code and repeat it. Vodafone’s message security codes can be changed by dialling 121, followed by pressing 1 and 98. Managers at Dixons stores said they sold mobile phones from sealed boxes which had instruction books inside. They also handed out their own leaflets on operating phones. Carphone Warehouse, which issues user’s guides with every sale of BT Cellnet and Vodafone mobiles said :”We urge customers to change their PIN numbers. If you don’t put a code in, people can get into it.

You would think that the first thing a celebrity would do would be to change their code, but many people don’t bother”.

For more on the phonehacking scandal and my story in FULL please visit my website 

Thanks for reading

Steven Nott


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