Tuesday, 12 July 2011

"Pinging" - sinister new level in hacking scandal

Assistant Commissioner John Yates has just told the Commons Home Affairs committee that he is 99 per cent sure his own phone was hacked during 2005-2006, though he has no idea who was behind the illegality.

Meanwhile the New York Times, which has been doing a fair bit of running on the case, has focused on the other highly dubious methods newspapers use police resources to locate their quarry.

It's called "pinging" and involves the kind of cellphone tracking normally carried out against terrorist suspects or kidnappers. The claim is that the News of the World routinely paid for police resources to be deployed to find anyone who might be trying to flee their attentions.

You can read the article here, and below is the key passage:

"According to Oliver Crofton, a cybersecurity specialist who works to protect high-profile clients from such invasive tactics, cellphones are constantly pinging off relay towers as they search for a network, enabling an individual’s location to be located within yards by checking the strength of the signal at three different towers. But the former Scotland Yard official who discussed the matter said that any officer who agreed to use the technique to assist a newspaper would be crossing a red line.

A former show business reporter for The News of the World, Sean Hoare, who was fired in 2005, said that when he worked there, pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion. He first found out how the practice worked, he said, when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors, Greg Miskiw, could help. Mr. Miskiw asked for the person’s cellphone number, and returned later with information showing the person’s precise location in Scotland, Mr. Hoare said. Mr. Miskiw, who faces questioning by police on a separate matter, did not return calls for comment."

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