Brian Moreau

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Mobile phone hacking and tapping.

The allegations
In the news as of 9th July 2009 is an allegation that the News of the World hired private investigators to hack or tap into thousands of mobile phones belonging to politicians and celebrities.

Is that hacking or tapping?
What I find frustrating about this story is the apparent lack of understanding of the difference between hacking and tapping by both the media the police and politicians.

One story reports on phone hacking and yet a reply from the police state there is insufficient evidence that any tapping has taken place.

     

Hacking and tapping are two very different activities although if there is any truth in this I would assume that given the money involved in stories of high profile people then it is vey likely that both voicemail hacking and phone tapping are both taking place.
I would also assume that various other forms of bugging are also being used.

Because their are so many conflictions in this story I am going to explain the difference between tapping and hacking for the benefit of the media, the police and anybody else who may find this of use. I will also show how easy it is to conduct such activities and why no evidence can be found to prove if any voice mail hacking or phone tapping has taken place.
A fact the police should be able to recognise.

Mobile phone voicemail hacking
Although there are many forms and methods of mobile phone hacking this story appears to relate to the unauthorised access of voice mail.
Many of us simply don’t use voicemail on a mobile phone never mind realise that voice mail messages can be accessed remotely i.e. from a phone other than the mobile phone that the message was left on.
I will explain how easy it is for you and any anybody else to listen to your messages.

On receiving a voicemail the mobile phone operator will send a text message informing us that a voice mail message has been received, the message usually contains the telephone number of the voice mail retrieval system and will give you the option to automatically dial that number.
The phone system recognises the number you are calling from and automatically connects you to your voicemail.

The first and most obvious method then if you wanted to access someone’s voicemail is to “borrow” the mobile phone, unless you was a close friend it would be hard to do this however if you left your mobile unattended maybe while you sleep or have a makeover it leaves it venerable to being used without your knowledge.
Even someone you trust may deceive you if they are offered enough money. Friends usually have a price too.

Ok lets assume you can’t get hold of the phone in question is their another way?

Mobile phone cloning
As explained above the mobile phone network recognises your mobile phone number on the network, this number can in fact be programmed into another mobile phone, this is called mobile phone cloning and was rife a few years back and allowed you to make free calls which would be added to the victims bill. It is however much harder to achieve these days but not impossible if you have the necessary equipment.

No mention of mobile phone cloning has been reported but I just thought I would mention it as an option that may have taken place.

Remote voicemail access
I will now deal with remote voicemail access.

The pin code
To access your or someone else’s voicemail remotely or from another phone all you have to do is phone the voicemail number which varies between mobile phone networks, enter the phone number of the phones mailbox you wish to access and enter a 4 digit pin code.

It is this pin code that makes the system very insecure as in most cases if you have not actually set a pin yourself then a default code of something like 0000 or 1234 is preset.
Even if you have set up a personal and private pin code because humans are very forgetful and creatures of habit we will invariably use our date of birth or a number that has some significance to us that we can easily remember. These are probably numbers we use for the lottery too so getting hold of someone's old lottery ticket, or knowing their date of birth could reveal someone's pin code. Note that pin code is very likely to be someone’s cash card pin too as we often use the same code for all of our devices.
You don’t have to be a private detective to work out what the implications of that are.

Guessing or hacking the pin code
If the above methods do not work you could always try to guess the pin, after all there are only 4 digits however there are 10,000 different combinations so it may take you some time however their is a way to crack this code in a matter of hours if the phone network will allow it.

DTMF Tones
When we dial a telephone number you hear different audio tones in the earpiece of the phone, each number has its own unique tone at a specific frequency, when we enter our voicemail pin code these tones are used for this too.

You may not realise it but these tones can actually be played down the handset and the exchange won’t know if you are pressing buttons on your phone or playing tones, as long as the tone is of the correct frequency then it will understand what tone related to which number and dial that number.

Tone diallers
There are actual devices called tone diallers, these diallers usually pocket size reproduced the necessary DTMF tones to dial telephone numbers. Some were even built into watches. They were ideal for business people using pay phones because they could store all you business contacts and friend’s numbers, they also speeded up dialling.

Most phones especially mobiles have a built in directory now so these old tone diallers are more or less obsolete however I am sure you can still buy them and it would not be to difficult for someone competent in electronics to build one, you may even find one at a car boot sale.

Custom DTMF tone dialler
A computer could also be programmed to output these codes via the speakers and a quick search on Google reveals several code generators that you can download and install on your computer.
So how can a tone dialler hack voicemail? Simple as it is electronic it can be programmed to repeatedly dial all the combinations until it got the code correct which could theoretically be accomplished in a few hours.

Can it be traced?
Well yes but at present no, I contacted all the common UK mobile phone networks and none said they log the number that voicemail is accessed from only the time the message was accessed is logged.
The only evidence you have that your voicemail had been listened to by someone other than yourself is the fact that the messages status becomes marked as “old” as opposed to “new” however you can’t prove to the police that it was not you that listened to it.
If the message is deleted by the unauthorised listener then you will not even be aware that you had a message in the first place. How many times have you sent an SMS or voicemail that the receiver has never received? Any complaints could easily be dismissed as technical glitches.

Can it be stopped?
Yes the mobile phone service providers could easily log all the numbers that access the voicemail system in exactly the same way I log all the visitors to my web sites.
Secondly the number of incorrect tries to enter a voicemail pin could be recorded and the operator could lock out after say 3 incorrect tries and notify the owner again in exactly the same way your cash card will be withdrawn if you repeatedly enter an incorrect pin.

I guess that nobody ahs really considered that these messages are of any security concern.

Note home answering machines also suffer from this pin tone vulnerability and I wonder if the private investigators were also intercepting these.

Because this article ended up far longer than intended I will deal with tapping in another post however tapping usually refers to listening to or bugging of a phone conversation which is obviously very different.

Another point to note is the voicemail hacker will need to know what network the number is on. This can be achieved in a number of ways such as using a telephone number look up tool on the internet or calling the phone when it is switched off.
In the later case the operators name is usually announced when leaving a message.
“Welcome to the O2 voicemail messaging service for number”
Operators could omit that information thus making it harder to find out what mobile network someone is on.

UPDATE October 2010

I have received quite a number of requests for voice mail access numbers and default pin codes. I have yet to complete the full list and would thus appreciate it if anyone could send me the missing data.

Network
Voicemail Access
Default PIN
Comments
3
07782333123
0000*
Enter mob num + #
Enter PIN + #
T Mobile
Mobile Number
1210*
NOW EE
O2
Mobile Number
5555*
* PIN Max 3 tries
Orange
NOW EE
EE
07973100123
None
# PIN
Virgin
Mobile Number
None
# PIN
 

* Unverified Data

Systems that require access by calling the mobile number itself are probably the hardest to hack since the phone will need to be switched off or out of signal otherwise the phone will simply ring.
Next time your phone rings and the caller instantly hangs up before you have had time to answer it could be someone attempting to hack your voicemail.

Click here for the article regarding Telephone Tapping

 
 
 
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UPDATE February 2014
Since writing this article back in 2009* we are still seeing people investigated for voicemail hacking.
I’m glad they finally managed to learn the difference between hacking and taping and I also see that most mobile phone operators have now made it much harder to access someone else’s voicemail remotely by eliminating the default PIN.
This prevents your voicemail being accessed remotely until you have set a PIN.
Thus now unless you know someone’s PIN or have a good guess it is very unlikely you will have other people listening to your messages.
I wonder if the mobile operators lock your access after a certain amount of incorrect tries and log the telephone numbers that attempt access.
This may at some point be an inconvenience to the genuine user if they forget their PIN but also make voicemail hacking just about impossible and traceable if unauthorised access is granted.

 
 
 
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Readers comments >

Date:  07-07-2011 17:01:30
From:  John
Location:
The BBC reported that it is no longer possible to hack mobile phone voicemail messages. Is this true?

Date:  11-07-2011 13:59:22
From:  Voice mail hackers
Location: In your ear.
We are listening to you.

Date:  13-07-2011 13:53:55
From:  Advisor
Location:
To help prevent your mobile phone voicemail being hacked or listened to by others CHANGE YOUR VOICEMAIL DEFAULT PIN O2 now make this default, not sure about other operators.

Date:  19-07-2011 03:24:17
From:  manish sahu
Location: patna
how can i tap any voice call?

Date:  30-08-2011 11:44:14
From:  alok gupta
Location: delhi
my mobile is being hack and someone is calling through my mobile when it is with me

Date:  01-01-2012 11:48:19
From:  self made
Location: ghana
i would like u to help give the simplest way of tapping a cell phone calls

Date:  05-01-2012 23:42:30
From:  kristine rockwell
Location:
That's crazy people can do that.

Date:  28-01-2012 12:11:21
From:  duke john
Location: addis ababa
how can i tap my girl friend phone call ??

Date:  29-01-2012 04:21:23
From:  damodar parihar
Location: bhilwara,rajasthan,india
i want to track a mobile voice call

Date:  30-01-2012 09:42:06
From:  Tumwesige kenneth
Location: Kampala
I want to make calls from my mobile without loading airtime, is it possible, , thanks

Date:  06-02-2012 05:19:34
From:  sarah browne
Location: ireland
someone changed my voicemail greeting{not from my mobile}is there a way to find out who did this,they left a very nasty message as my greeting

Date:  25-02-2012 08:40:42
From:  Olayemi ogunsola
Location: Lagos
Please how can i tap a call 4rm mtn to mtn line.please can you help me with the code?

Date:  02-03-2012 16:54:22
From:  James King
Location:
How stupid are you, some of you commenters. Asking openly on the internet for someone to help you hack. Grow the flip up.

Date:  11-03-2012 15:08:03
From:  kundan
Location:
My galfrnd talk to hr frnd . Bt i dnt lyk their fndshp . So can i make a cl or txt my galfrnd using his no. Connting from my phone .. By nt using his persnl phn .

Date:  15-03-2012 01:09:08
From:  Azam jadoon
Location: Sheikhupura
If u want to hack any voice call the instruction is the whole page.If u have mind?

Date:  19-03-2012 11:32:43
From:  raghavendra
Location: india
help me to hack my girlfriend number

Date:  25-03-2012 14:24:06
From:  eddie lewis
Location: mississippi
help me tap my girls phone.

Date:  30-03-2012 13:52:06
From:  Peter
Location: Abia state
How can i tap an mtn to mtn line

Date:  15-04-2012 18:12:07
From:  beckie read
Location: cullom
I was wondering if it is possible to find out who is accessing your voicemail...based on this article it seems like that is a negative.

Date:  22-04-2012 07:18:24
From:  Rohit Anna Kulaye
Location: Mumbai, India
Please how can i tap a call 4rm loop to airtel line.please can you help me with the code?

Date:  06-05-2012 18:07:52
From:  mourad zeidan
Location: lebanon
how to know the contacts and the messages of my girl friend ? If i dont have her phone by using my phone

Date:  11-05-2012 09:27:38
From:  Lucy Mclaughlin
Location: London
This is a HUGE concern - esp. there are at least 4 messages on here from men about hacking their girlfriend's voicemails...this is Stalking and an impriosable offence, not to mention is also domestic violence, abuse and harrassment. Respecy privacy - if you don't know, they don't want you to know - if this is a problem, discuss..if this is still a problem - leave don't stalk!!

Date:  21-05-2012 08:04:56
From:  Doreen
Location: ireland
Im using vodafone in the republic of ireland i now i lost my phone i want to listen my messages how can i do that?

Date:  26-05-2012 15:05:46
From:  lucky
Location:
when i saw the kardashians first hacked the voicemail and discovered that one of their boyfriends was cheating i thought that it saved the girl from more humiliation and sadness, knowing the truth, there are positives and negatives to this, plenty of people find the truth from a private detective it is not deemed stalking, people should make sure their voicemails are secure or not use it at all.

Date:  27-05-2012 06:10:48
From:  Sarah Ahmed
Location: North Brunswick
Hi..I have been experiencing a lot of problems like phone tapping with my phone. I had a problem with my ex bf tapping in to my phone...and i believe he did it through voicemail....I just want to know how I can tell if he actually did tap/hack it. I used to have a voicemail, but i dont anymore.

Date:  29-05-2012 13:03:15
From:  ben mack
Location: hartford
My girlfriend said she can hack into my cell phone regardless how many times I change my pin.how is that possible?

Date:  31-05-2012 22:04:43
From:  Angelita Fiore
Location: NY State
In one day i received 13 indicated as voice mail,different times in one day.I did not hear any ringtone and there is no telephone number and no messages even though i received 13 of them,How could i passibly identify the number /or the caller.Pls respond,Thanks

Date:  09-06-2012 19:18:00
From:  karen singh
Location: birmingham
i just simply wonna knw how to listen to someones voicemail messages pls help ke

Date:  30-06-2012 07:41:25
From:  shning
Location: srinagar
how i can see who is calling me when i received her call shespoken bullshit how i can stop her plz

Date:  04-07-2012 11:18:02
From:  hina patel
Location: birmingham
my mobile phone is being hacked can i report this to anyone the police will say contact your network provider the phone shop will look at my mobile phone and say theres nothing wrong with your phone how can i prove to them my phones being hacked how can i stop them i have a feeling my phones is being cloned the hacker has blocked my number any idea how can i stop this hacker from hacking my phone

Date:  17-08-2012 05:14:31
From:  sunanda dutta
Location: coochbehar
how can i stop this hacker from hacking my phone

Date:  11-10-2012 20:58:39
From:  Crystal Michelle
Location: North Dakota
There are a few things I would LOVE to point out. 1. As mentioned before ... Hacking, tracking, stalking and anything you need to be sneaky about is not only illegal, but wrong. If you have a good relationship there should be no reason for things like that. If it's questionable, then discuss it like adults. If there are trust issues, infidelity etc ...LEAVE!!! 2. As for a lot of the other comments, I don't know what kinds of phones everyone on here operates, but there are several call blockers and apps that will prevent people from getting into your phone. I have been working with computers for almost 20 years and currently back in college getting another degree in computer science and engineering. Take the time to research what apps (applications) might be available via GooglePlay (formally Android Market) or itunes (AT&T). There are apps that call blocker, un-identified callers etc can prevent people from calling. Keep in mind though, someone like myself can also call you from our computer. Numerous applications are coming out and although they seem cool. Remember the following: "PRIVACY IS A MUST!" IF YOU WOULDN'T WANT SOMEONE TO DO IT TO YOU, THEN DON'T DO IT TO THEM. You never know, it might be me getting into your things next time, only I have the cops with me on my side and take you into prison!

Date:  10-09-2012 01:18:58
From:  Emmanuel Bidal Nicola
Location: kampala
Nice

Date:  04-12-2012 09:48:38
From:  jenny evans
Location: ireland
is it true that if i wanted copy of text messages of a mobile i can write to a place in england who can send me this information for a fee, do not do it in ireland

Date:  20-12-2012 06:42:04
From:  Anna Potrykus
Location: presently Ramsgate Kent UK
My phone is both tapped and voicemails hacked by neighbours and probl the police.....I'm on their training programme...vodaphone told me as did police that not poss to hack digital phones...I asked them if they ever read the papers...and also if they pay their taxes....police displayed knowledge of my private conversation with vodaphone without me giving them that info...suggests collusion ....also get other people 's messages on my ansaphone....how do I block?..ps vodaphone also said they pay thir taxes....could someone be lying here?

Date:  09-01-2013 07:43:50
From:  mifinthemix
Location: surburbia
orange 3333? 555 o2( or old bt cellnet)

Date:  12-02-2013 14:24:24
From:  Prince
Location: Delta state
I want to listen to my gf discusion wit al her friends.

Date:  05-02-2013 04:58:20
From:  Ganesh patil
Location: Belgaum
How i know about my girlfriends moble phones call history with tracking device

Date:  01-04-2013 04:54:41
From:  inderjit singh
Location: Delhi
Dude can u please help me regarding my girlfriend she using her mom mobile bt I doubt her so please tell me...is their any wayI hack mobile or I know about her messages please bro help me for dis...:-(

Date:  04-04-2013 21:06:19
From:  hollie bash
Location: Choctaw
Forgot voicemail password

Date:  04-05-2013 04:13:59
From:  Koushik Mondal
Location: West Bengal
I have my girlfriend's mobile number and I want to track her all call and message details. How can I do so??

Date:  21-07-2013 10:55:33
From:  Hemant
Location:
Hi, Is it possible to download the software in my mobile phone instead of the hackers, as I won't be able to take their phone. How many number can I hack at the same time? Will I be able to hear live conversation, read all the msgs(sms,,imsgs, whtsapp), retrieve videos and photos stored in mobile, and locate location by GPS. Will this be kept confidential from the hacker. Kindly let me know. Many thanks.

Date:  12-05-2013 10:47:44
From:  chosen
Location: onitsha
how can i hack a nokia phone and a simcard pls.

Date:  03-07-2013 08:29:19
From:  Mthunzie
Location: Johannesburg
I want to share all my gf phone calls

Date:  16-08-2013 10:26:25
From:  jenna yuki
Location: Antwerpen
I need help...The ex-girlfriend of my boyfriend knows i have been with boyfriend, what we did or talked about and more irritating is that i stalked her using my mobile number. How does she get all this details....my life is hell. Help!!!

Date:  04-08-2013 03:58:16
From:  Christina Jacobs
Location: Los Alamitos
How can I track my boyfriends call history along with being able to read all msgs, retrieve videos and photos stored in mobile and can I locate his location by GPS? Also, is it possible to listen in on live conversations? Hope you can help. Thank you.

Date:  13-09-2013 10:16:36
From:  prasanth
Location: coimbatore
help me to hack my girlfriend number

Date:  29-01-2014 06:17:40
From:  tsepo khalaki
Location: johannesburg
eish i shold lyk u to help to gve me da code of nokia so dat i can hack my girlfrnd cellphne calls and maessages

Date:  06-02-2014 09:12:29
From:  Ina
Location: Seattle
How can I hack threw my boyfriends voicemail I need help :

Date:  06-02-2014 11:44:10
From:  Brian
Location: London
Please DO NOT send request to hack your partners mobile phone. I DO NOT hack phones or any other device. If you do not trust your partner leave them! It is an offense to hack or conspire to hack!

 
 
 
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Mobile phone hacking and tapping
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