☆ Voicemail Cracking

Lock PickingI’m getting tired of all the news reports that are incorrectly accusing the News of the World of  “phone hacking”. For goodness sake, haven’t we already covered this? It’s both inaccurate and unhelpful. Even the BBC are doing it and they ought to know better.

It is inaccurate because the activity does not involve access to phones but to the voicemail service they connect to. As far as I can tell, no phone system has had its integrity violated during this incident, only a voicemail system. Most likely the culprit just cracked the voicemail PIN – pretty easy stuff if you know how to dial in to the service.

It is also inaccurate because the term “hacking” is not correctly applied to the violation of the integrity of systems. Hacking is a more general term indicating that a system is being used in a way that was not envisaged by its creators, and can be used both positively and negatively. The term that should be used is instead “cracking”.

It is unhelpful because huge numbers of technically skilled people routinely engage in “hacking” as a positive activity, involving innovation and problem solving. Misuse of the term only with a negative connotation diminishes the contribution these skilled individuals make to society.

The correct term for the alleged activity is “voicemail cracking”. It’s time people learned the difference.

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4 Responses

  1. You’re right, of course. It reminds me of how the word “hacking” morphed into a general term for computer crime. And now it’s morphed into a general term for any illegitimate attempt to enter any technology-based device.

    At this rate Willie Sutton will become a “bank hacker.” And Osama bin Laden a “plane hacker.”

  2. Appreciate the summary Simon, as someone who has only been watching this from afar.

    In so much as you are aware then, the NOTW scandal doesn’t involve eavesdropping on active ‘phone conversations, either over the air i.e. intercepting and joining calls; or doing the same via a link inside the network or carrier?

    I’d consider either of these to be a form of hacking, not withstanding the definition, I’d consider the ability to do this much more serious and require much greater collusion.

    • I’ve not seen anything to suggest any actual technical skill has been exercised, no, just consumer-grade poor security exploited.

  3. It makes me cringe when I see folks complaining about how their twitter or Facebook got ‘hacked.’

    No, your account was compromised because you use an insecure password or have poor computer usage habits.

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