THE UK’S BIGGEST newspaper is in deep trouble. The News of the World has an amazingly long record of hot celebrity scoops. But staff got them by illegally hacking the phone accounts of actors, singers and politicians, police say. Newspaper executives deny it, claiming that 99 percent of their staff, angels in human form, would NEVER do such wicked things.
Yeah right. Well, I can give you the real story. You see, I used to work for that newspaper. Indeed, I was once IN CHARGE of the whole newspaper. (For 17 minutes on a public holiday when everyone went to the pub except for me and my drunken boss, who fell asleep in the toilet, and I don’t mean ON the toilet, I mean IN the toilet.)
Getting scoops using sneaky means was not an occasional mistake by rogue reporters. It was what we did. It was our job. We’d sit around every day thinking up new tricky, underhand methods to trick slebs (our word for “celebrities”) into revealing stuff.
We weren’t evil: quite the opposite. We were noble defenders of free speech. We would put our hands on our hearts and declare that the public had a right to know every truth, especially if it involved slebs’ unacknowledged breast enhancements.
There was also an element of jealousy, I’ll admit. Slebs were stupid-but-pretty people with undeserved fame and fortune, while reporters were clever-but-ugly people who would have liked a bit of undeserved fame or fortune.
We felt we HAD to trick them to reset the balance of the universe. Can’t get nobler than that.
Hacking a sleb phone is easy. (This still works.)
1) You call the slebs’ assistant and talk very fast: “Hi, it’s Dave from the studio. Madonna/Angelina/ Nicole gave me her mobile and told me to call but I lost the bit of paper. It’s urgent, can you give me the number?” The assistant will refuse.
2) So you shout: “Look, we’re supposed to be doing a live phone-in on cable after the three o’clock news – that’s in TWO MINUTES.” The assistant gives you the number.
3) Then you call the telecom companies’ remote message service and type in the phone number as if it was your own. For the password, you type 0000. If this doesn’t work, you type 1234. (The prettier the star, the more you can be sure that they were too dumb to change the default password.)
Click. You’re in. “You have 14 new messages,” says the automatic voice. It doesn’t matter how mundane the messages are, they can always be turned into gossip column news stories.
“[Star name] is in hot water at the local library – his books are six weeks overdue!”
“[Star name]’s only calls yesterday were two wrong numbers and a telemarketing call—nobody loves him!” Etc, etc.
One particularly dumb sleb (a blonde) called herself and was surprised and annoyed to find herself engaged.
Hmm. I should add that it is not just rich, attractive stars who are too stupid to change their default phone passwords. I just checked my own. Yep, it was 0000.
(Illustration: Lois Lane of the Daily Planet in 1972)