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MIRROR TAPS BERTIE'S MOBILE; We listen to his message in Cabinet phone scandal.

GOVERNMENT phones can be tapped by any member of the public, The Irish Mirror can reveal today.

Phones in every Government Department can easily be monitored by anyone with a phone of their own.

A technological loophole means that eavesdroppers can listen into communication from top Ministers.

Yesterday, the Irish Mirror was able to listen to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern requesting his advisers for a "GAA speech" for a function tonight.

We also tuned in on messages from Cabinet Ministers, including ones from sensitive Departments such as Justice

and Defence.

Ironically, one of the messages we were able to monitor was from a senior Department of Justice official concerned the revelation that RTE journalists were being spied upon.

The phone tap can be operated by anyone who knows the number of the mobile phone they wish to listen in to.

In a hugely embarrassing breach of Government security we discovered that nearly all of the Fianna Fail Ministers and their huge teams of advisers have not changed the security passwords on their mobile phones.

All Eircell mobile phones start off with the same factory setting password for their electronic mailbox answering machine when they are sold.

Customers are advised to change the password as soon as they begin using the phone.

But tens of thousands of mobile phone users all over the country never change their security code.

That means that anyone can listen in to another person's messages by simply phoning into the their electronic mailbox and dialling the digits 'OOOO'.

For six digit `087' numbers, amateur hackers simply place the digit '7' after the prefix and dial as normal to go directly into the mailbox.

With the new seven digit numbers, the `spy' adds `1' onto the first digit of the phone number. Therefore if the phone number is usually 087 2345678, they dial 087 3345678.

One there they press the pounds "hash" button when they hear the phone owner's message and then dial the factory setting password of `0000' followed again by the 'hash' button, which is underneath the `9' key on most phones.

Once they have done this the hacker has unlimited access to all the messages.

Yesterday, the Irish Mirror was able to covertly monitor communications from EVERY Government Department.

Last night a Government spokesman, when told of the Irish Mirror expose, immediately announced they would be issuing a circular to all Government departments to tighten phone security.
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Article Details
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Author:Brophy, Karl
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 18, 1998
Words:402
Previous Article:I KNEW SOMEONE WAS SPYING ON ME; RTE man's phone bugged after NIB scandal exposed.
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