Vodafone admits to having hacked journalist’s smartphone, who was writing about security flaw in Vodafone network
Vodafone, a telco giant has acknowledged that a Fairfax reporter’s phone was hacked by an employee, as of result of a story she had written about the weaknesses in the company’s security systems.
In January 2011, an isolated employee had gained access to “call charge records and text messages,” the company said on Saturday.
Natalie O’Brien, a Fairfax Media journalist had uncovered a serious security flaw in 2011 in the company’s data storage methods. This meant that all the details of millions of customers that used generic passwords were available online, such as their names, addresses and credit card details.
In 2012, Vodafone Group’s former Australian fraud boss, Colin Yates has sent an email highlighting his concern regarding the hacking of O’Brien’s phone that may become known to the public, disclosed the Internal Vodafone documents obtained by News Limited.
Mr Yates wrote “This could have serious consequences given it is a breach of the Australian Telecommunications Act.”
“And (it) would certainly destroy all of the work done by VHA (Vodafone Hutchison Australia) over the past months to try and restore their reputation.”
The company said in a statement that Vodafone at once instructed a top accounting firm to investigate into the hacking.
“The investigation found there was no evidence VHA management had instructed the employee to access the messages and that VHA staff were fully aware of their legal obligations in relation to customer information,” a spokeswoman said.
The investigation was carried out to find out if the privacy laws were broken by any employee rather than find out the source of the Fairfax story, she said.
“As a result of our investigation, several retail staff were dismissed for breaches of VHA security policies.”
The company “strongly denied any allegations of improper behaviour”.
O’Brien said she was “absolutely outrage,” who was unaware of the incident before the publishing of internal documents by News Limited.
“The shock and anger is only compounded knowing it was because I was doing my job that I was targeted and it was my own telco that was doing it to me,” she wrote in a Fairfax column.
“The accessing of call records and text messages without a legal basis has to stop.
“As a society we need to take a good look at this sort of behaviour and say it is unacceptable.
“Since when did telling the truth become the wrong thing to do?”