Tips for avoiding your own phone hacking scandal

The Internet has gone viral with reports of a phone hacking scandal in the United Kingdom. Allegedly some reporters affiliated with “News of the World” and “The Sun” were involved in  a phone hacking scandal and/or attempts to bribe public officials and police for insider information so that they could get the “news” out before anyone else. Murdoch executive Rebekah Brooks, has been among the many recent arrests on suspicion of hacking into the cell phones of celebrities, politicians and others in the news and bribing police for information to fuel “scoops” for tabloid magazines including “News of the World.”

Who has been a victim of phone hacking?
Milly Dowler, a missing teenager whose voice mail was allegedly hacked by News of The World before she was found murdered.
Hugh Grant
Heather Mills (former wife of Paul McCartney)
Former child singing star Charlotte Church
Conservative MP and former defence secretary, Liam Fox was informed that “His bank details and a number of financial transactions were found in the records they have been investigating as part of the Operating Weeting.” (Operation Weeting is the Scotland Yard name for the investigation into phone hacking.)
Comedian Steve Coogan

Just to name a few . . .

How much is your voicemail worth?
According to CNN, “The publisher of News of the World tabloid last week paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds to settle lawsuits over phone hacking.”

Charlotte Church has refused to settle, citing the damage that phone hacking did to her personal life.

Steve Coogan settled for $63,000 but says, “This has never been about money,” he said. “Like other people who have sued, I was determined to do my part to show the depths to which the press can sink in pursuit of private information.”

But phone hacking isn’t just something that journalist trying to get the inside “scoop” on, can do and you don’t have to be a celebrity or public official to be at risk. According to this report on CBS news AT&T and Sprint are among those cell phone customers who are at high risk of phone hacking, but just about any cell phone user can also run the risk of someone getting the inside “scoop” on their personal lives with a simple Internet website and 3 minutes of time.

How can your private voicemail stay private?
Protect your voice mail service bycreating a unique and private four digit password. Avoid birthdays, last four digits and other significant dates. Kristian Hammond, co-director of the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University, advises “One of the main holes in peoples’ security is their password,” said Hammond. “People should be thinking about making sure their passwords are unique and not related to them.”

He warns, “What it really comes down to is your password. As with most password-protected devices, people do a mediocre job of making sure their passwords are un-guessable,” said Hammond. “A lot of people use things like the year they were born, the month or day they were born, their social security number—easy to remember but also easy for people to guess.”

Just as you frequently change the password on your online accounts like banking, Amazon or email, change your passwords on your cell phone voice mail on a regular basis. Check your voice mail frequently, getting and deleting your message as soon as possible to keep your private messages, private.