News Corp. PhoneGate Analysis and Suggestions

Rich Tehrani : Communications and Technology Blog - Tehrani.com
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News Corp. PhoneGate Analysis and Suggestions

Based on the constant media coverage you should all be aware that reporters at a now shuttered News Corp. newspaper broke into voicemail accounts in order to get scoops. News Corp is certainly center-right in its reporting - depending on which brand of course. And it is also a very successful company with products like Fox News being monsters in terms of viewership.

But journalists are generally liberal and before you dispute my assertion, please recognize I hire and work with them for a living and as such, media outlets across the world have gone out of their way to focus on what isn't such a huge story. And if the reasons aren't ideological, consider as a competitor, the more the general media can trash News Corp. the better it is for them competitively. Oh, and yes, TMC editorial team, I still love you and you are all family - just like my liberal aunts and uncles and that cousin that lives in California. smiley-smile

After all, when the HP board utilized pretexting to obtain phone records illegally, the story died down very quickly without the mainstream media getting very worked up at all.

Some journalists have tried to pin the illicit reporting practices of the now defunct News of The World tabloid on all Murdoch brands and to follow this line of reasoning would be defying logic. Why? Simply because companies and employees are not the same thing. You see, employees quit media companies constantly or are let go and then find other media jobs.

And if you work at a tabloid where they use a practice which allows you to get more notoriety, you will use this same practice when you go to your new job. And to blame News Corp. alone for unethical reporting practices would ignore the fact that the hiring market is fluid and dynamic and cross-channel meaning if voicemail hacking is taking place in one newspaper, it is taking place in many. Moreover, tabloid reporters can quite often take jobs in more mainstream newspapers, TV and radio - meaning this practice could potentially be very widespread.

This gets us to voicemail systems - back in 1983 or so when I was working on UNIX systems I recall getting alerted when my last failed login attempt took place. For some strange reason, many desktop computers today and voicemail systems don't bother to volunteer this information - if they make it available at all.

My recommendation is every successful login should be greeted with information about previous login attempts and voicemail systems should also record the calling number for potential future investigation if needed. And if there is no Caller-ID information the system should only allow one or two login attempts.

In summary, we live in a  world which is less secure by the moment because more of our data becomes digitized each day and much of it is living in various clouds which have varying levels of security.

My simple solutions to notify users of invalid login attempts with recording of IP addresses and phone numbers of potentially malicious users should reduce the problem dramatically.


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