Optical/IP Networks

AT&T Phases In Voice-Mail Password Protection

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) will phase in voice-mail password protection -- which users adding a new handset or mobile phone line will have to opt out from -- in reaction to the phone-hacking scandal in the U.K. that now threatens to move stateside.

AT&T didn't explicitly mention The News of The World or News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) in its unveiling of the change on its policy blog. But Bob Quinn, AT&T senior vice president, federal regulatory, and chief privacy officer, wrote on Friday that spoofing technology that allows people to "fake" the telephone number they are calling from has led to AT&T to move in the direction of password protection:

    We wish that we did not have to make this change. While there may be legitimate reasons for a caller to mask their phone number, broadly available commercial spoofing technology is wide open to misuse. As in so many other situations, it is the misuse of the technology rather than the technology itself that is the problem. So we will take these extra steps to make sure that our customers know exactly how to get the level of security that is right for each of them.

The operator is going to set up new phones and numbers so that the voice mail has a password as default and users can opt out of the protection if they wish.

You can read more about setting about password protection on your AT&T voice mail here.

Why this matters
Pretending to be someone else so you can listen in on voice mail is still a relatively simple task, according to the New Scientist magazine. "Hacking into mobile voice mail is surprisingly easy on three of the four largest cell-phone carriers in the US, thanks to web-based services that make your call appear to come from the cell phone you're trying to hack," security consultant Jeff Hecht wrote in July.

Only Verizon Wireless requires a password on subscribers' voice-mail accounts. It should be noted, however, that both Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and T-Mobile US Inc. have recently posted some new instructions for users who want to add a password to their account.

The issue of voice-mail spoofing could become even hotter in the U.S., depending on what emerges from FBI investigations into whether journalists employed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. hacked into the voice-mail accounts of 9/11 victims.

For more
Read up on mobile security below:

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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