Phone firms to advise on voicemail safety


MOBILE PHONE providers have agreed to provide customers with extra information on how to keep their voice messages secure after the Data Protection Commissioner last week questioned the need for remote access to the service.

The commissioner had contacted all the providers here in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal involving the News of the Worldnewspaper in Britain, in which thousands of voice messages had been accessed illegally.

Billy Hawkes welcomed steps taken by Emobile, Meteor, O2, Three and Vodafone to improve voicemail security.

He said while some of the companies’ voicemail security features were “better than others”, they had all responded “in an exemplary fashion” to a request to urgently examine this area to better protect customers.

He said he was now satisfied steps taken, or to be taken, would achieve the same goal of better protecting customer data as making the service an opt-in one.

“It is now important that the public follow the advice of their mobile provider, and where they have not already done so take steps to either secure their voicemail and phones generally or improve upon the measures they may have already taken,” Mr Hawkes said.

“At the end of this process it will no longer be possible to access a person’s voicemail using a default password.”

Tommy McCabe, of the Irish Cellular Industry Association, said mobile operators had measures in place “to inform customers of their options to enhance the protection of voicemail services”.

“We recommend that individuals take steps to ensure that their voicemail is appropriately protected. Information on how to do this is available from respective operators’ websites.”

Meteor and Emobile have provided extra information on how to secure voicemail on their websites. They will also send a text message to customers in coming days.

O2 has begun to communicate with customers to advise how they can keep voicemail secure. This programme will include text messages and a pre-recorded advisory when customers dial into their voicemail to retrieve messages. It has also updated its website.

The commissioner said Three was communicating to customers the importance of securing voicemail with a unique personal identification number (PIN) known only to the customer. It will also provide an online help and support update to advise customers on the level of security they should use when setting up their pin.

From today, Vodafone Ireland customers will hear information when they dial 171 on how they can change their voicemail password at any time. The company has made extra information available on its website. It said it would continue to inform customers in coming weeks on enhanced security options.