Vodafone Greece "hacked" - is Vodafone UK safe ?

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The scandal unfolding in Greece, reported by the Independent over the revelations that politicians mobile phones, including those of the Greek prime minister etc. had been intercepted by Vodafone, before and after the 2004 Olympic Games.

Is the Vodafone mobile phone network similarly vulnerable here in the United Kingdom ?

Some more details in this AFP report via Alan Mather e-government@large

The eavesdropping system operated through the local Vodafone mobile service, and was discovered when the company began an investigation into customer complaints involving lost text messages.

The inquest discovered that an illegal software code had been introduced to activate a Vodafone sub-system permitting call interception. This code had been entered without Vodafone's knowledge, the government said.

In addition to the prime minister, four top ministers also had their cellphones tapped, as did European Union environment commissioner Stavros Dimas and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, among others.

Other targets included a cellphone belonging to the US embassy, and phones used by several ministries and the general staff of the Greek Navy.

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Vodafone Greece admitted it had removed the spyware before informing the government.

Yesterday, it added that copies of the software were retained, and that related evidence had been submitted to the authorities.
The Greek defence ministry, which saw the cellphones of most of its top brass compromised, insisted that "all conversations pertaining to matters of national security are always conducted on encrypted networks".

Asked about the issue on Thursday, government spokesman Roussopoulos likewise deemed that the tapping had caused "no damage" to Greece's national interests.

"The prime minister and the cabinet members use encrypted phones," he said.

Did Vodafone Greece disabling of the "conference call" style mobile phone interception to the alleged "14 to 15" pre-paid mobile phone handsets even before they informed the Greek Government, actually let the culprits slip away undetected ?

There should have been a chance for the Greek authorities to triangulate the locations of these handsets, much more accurately than to the nearest 4 cell phone transmitters,

It should be noted that the pre-paid phone cards used operated on aerials located in Lycabettus, Mavili Square, Pyrgos Athinon and Lefkos Stavros clinic,

The foreign embassies, including those of the United Kingdom and the United States, the Greek Parliament and the Hellenic Ministry of Defence are all situated close to each other in central Athens at the base of the Acropolis hill.

The list of 44 surveillance targets (some of whom had more than one Vodafone phone) also includes some Arabic businessmen , as well as the Governemnt politicans, opposition politicians and military personnel.

The Sunday Times also reports the suspicious timing of the suicide of a key Vodafone employee:

As part of the government's investigation into the scandal, the suicide of Kostas Tsalikidis, 39, Vodafone Greece's head of network design, is being re-examined by police.

Tsalikidis was found hanged in his Athens flat on the morning of March 9, 2005, two days after the ghost program had been discovered and shut down by George Koronias, the Vodafone general manager, and a day before the prime minister's office was informed.

Even specially extra encrypted mobile phones using the Mobile Phone networks still yield important Communications Traffic Data i.e. which phone number is calling or receiving or sending SMS messages to which other one, at which time. The mobile phone Cell Location Data is independent of the phone handsest to handset encrypted tunnels, and so would also be available to a "hacker" or "intelligence agency" via a compromised mobile phone network, such as the one reported above.

Together with the Portuguese scandal,which also has seen the release of Communications Traffic Data records of many politicians, as part of the investigation into the Casa Pia child abuse ringl, has implications for the UK government's current dithering over the "Wilson Doctrine"

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Who wants to listen to the phone conversations of officials in the Greek government including the Prime Minister? They'd like to know that too. Unknown eavesdroppers tapped the mobile phones of Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, five cabinet membe... Read More


The scandal does seem to be under a lot of investigation in Greece at the moment.

The worrying thing for us in the UK or elsewhere, is that it is still unclear if the activation of the Ericsson developed wiretapping / conference call diversion software was via a remote exploit or whether it needed a priviliged insider to install and activate it. Are our mobile phone networks also vulnerable to this sort of illegal activity ?


Clarifications over the Software

Ericsson, the company that produces the software used by Vodafone, issued an announcement clarifying that two types of software were employed for tapping the phone conversations.

The first one employed legally had been developed by Ericsson and had been installed in Vodafone, yet it was not activated. The second software, which was of unknown origins, namely it had not been developed by Ericsson, had been illegally installed in Vodafone’s system to activate the legal software and erase the traces of the phone-tapping.

dear COSTAS GEORGOPOULOS, we went to the same high school. I want to speak with you for Kostas Tsalikidis. I dont Know if you remerber me. Please call me if it is possible to 0030 6978 778999 or write to (iasonasvel@yahoo.com)
I am waiting. Thanks.

@ dos - are we safe from the same Ericsson software / hardware in common use worldwide ?

What are you implying about Comverse ?

Here in the UK , we have our own potential scandal involving telephone / mobile phone / internet / postal Interception and Communications Traffic Data regarding our Members of Parliament , who are supposed to be immune from that sort of thing under the "Wilson Doctrine", which seems to be under review now after operating for 40 years.

Today in the UK my partner's sister phoned us on land line to ask about a conversation that she had overheard on her land line from my prepaid vodafone mobile. My mobile was switched ON with keypad LOCKED, I made or received NO CALLS. Within 1 hour the message came about my conversation(NOT on phone) from 160 miles away. Now that is SCARY.

The Ericsson AXE telecomms switch is common throughout the UK Mobile Phone Networks, and so any poyential remote compromises are of extreme concern to our privacy and security here in the UK.

The Ericsson Interception Management System manual etc. is available at


and at


It shows what is possible, and what would require extra expenditure, to comply with the categories of data under the Home Office's RIPA Voluntary (for now) Code of Practice, and the (different) European Union Directive Communications Traffic Data Retention plans.

Tapping is not anything new. Its been going on for many years via Greece's fixed lines.CIA and other intelligent agencies have been doing this for years. I think its the way of life today to catch corrupt politicians and terrorists. If someone is corrupt or a terrorist, we should all know about it.!

The problem with Vodafone was that the company had not safeguard its security encryption software as this is being examined now.

The telco engineering job no longer seems to be what it used to. I must confess that there has been a bit of a co-incidence with some of the elements of this article.

1) Running through that strictly confidential IMS_USER_MANUAL is a picture of a GUI making reference to a machine (prsm07) that I christened and setup for Ericsson 10 years ago! How did that document end up on the internet?

2) In early 2006 I was talking to Bill Zikou about transferring to Ericsson Athens when his face appeared on local TV (delayed N.E.T. TV played in Australia) almost spraying my morning coffee (just like the movies)!

3) I have worked with Ericsson twice, the first time I ended it in 1998 when coming back from holidays to discover that one of our staff members had been knocked off (strangled to death)!

The first time I worked with Ericsson in 1997 it was a very process and procedure driven organisation with copious amounts of documentation to describe pretty much everything. In Australia, Ericsson had a CMM level of 2. During this period the manufacturing of phones and circuit boards became too expensive forcing the local factories to be closed and work either outsourced or sent to China, however software and services remained strong. My induction took roughly 2 months.

The second time I worked with Ericsson in 2006 I saw people with old skills trying to relive the old ways and blend in with the furniture. While I was away from Ericsson I modernised my skills (AGILE, SOA, opensource, etc). The new Ericsson was using Windows 2000 server on low specification PCs to do software development. And it gets worse – staff were bringing in their personal copies of windows 2003 server to meet 3PP requirements just to move forward. I could not convince Ericsson to use Linux, I struggled to introduce VMWARE (it ran like a dog), and was forced to use old unsupported Sun Microsystems hardware – including the original IMS development machine (which I reformatted of course). The only induction for new staff was to throw them in the deep end.

If I were to give Ericsson a CMM rating it would be minus five. Perhaps I am a bit hard as the cost of supporting the old way is now too expensive. However these issues were not technical but more managerial as other aspects besides software development were lacking. For example, security was explained to us but its practice was often ignored with an I-don't want-to-know-about-it attitude by managers. This led to practices like developers setting up IP tunnels over the internet between two Ericsson buildings to access test equipment that was not allowed to be connected to the local area network - sometimes we found the test servers had been hacked and filled with pornographic content. Once when working back late (and the only time I worked through the entire night) in a supposedly secured Ericsson building I could hear someone violently bashing the door on the floor I worked on (level 37) at 3am in the morning. I was very fortunate he didn't get through the last line of defence and that he did not hide in the toilets which were outside. I could not report this to anyone – was someone going to knock me off that night? The final confirmation of this apathy came from someone I know who does not work in IT (he works in law enforcement) told me that he found an Ericsson pass that looked recent which he actually bothered to take to Ericsson direct and in his words "they didn’t even seem to care".

In the Human Resources aspect I saw individuals with extremely lucrative contracts, I saw people who literally did nothing, I saw bullying, personal abuse, and a huge staff turnaround. My line manager as it turned out was friends with the underworld owner of the largest brothel in Australia and boasted about having flown on his private jet. I found it rather unusual that he send his secretary to request my username and password before I left which was against Ericsson policy which he knew – of course I refused. I thought all this was very un-Ericsson until I came across The Ericsson Group website which exposes a significant amount of corruption in the company.

This dysfunction in Ericsson I feel is causing the vulnerable weakness to security. This dysfunction was deliberately done as it allowed certain senior players to manoeuvre themselves for building stronger personal empires. Ericsson I found is very unlike the old days, even Bill Zikou who is now CEO of Ericsson Australia remarked on how much better organised they were in his region in Europe. A clue to who was responsible for creating this dysfunction in Ericsson Australia can be found in a quote used by our technically challenged (no formal engineering qualifications) but very street smart Oracle DBA who kept on surviving even after introducing so many show stoppers and even after crashing the customers live mobile phone network service – he used to say quite regularly and loudly "I'm not Jewish but I wish I was". Definitely not a normal place to work in, but if you think of the rewards of taking control of systems that allow you to listen in to big business and politics then you begin to attract a different breed of worker.

@ e-engineer - thanks for your interesting comments. Is Ericsson better or worse than their commercial rivals ?

From our experience certain telecommunications and companies do not enforce a strict air gap between their test and development systems and their core business production systems as they should.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Scott Adams the satirical cartoonist creator of Dilbert used to work in a Pacific Bell cubicle farm.

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This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

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Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

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Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

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rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

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Big Brother State - "a small act of resistance" to the "sustained and systematic attack on our personal freedom, privacy and legal system"

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Famous for 15 Megapixels

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The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

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Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

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Matt Wardman political blog analysis

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HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

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World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

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Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia


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Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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Please bear in mind the many recent, serious security vulnerabilities which have compromised the Twitter infrastructure and many user accounts, and Twitter's inevitable plans to make money out of you somehow, probably by selling your Communications Traffic Data to commercial and government interests.

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  • wtwu: @ e-engineer - thanks for your interesting comments. Is Ericsson read more
  • e-engineer: The telco engineering job no longer seems to be what read more
  • Aris Pallis: The problem with Vodafone was that the company had not read more
  • Tony: Tapping is not anything new. Its been going on for read more
  • wtwu: The Ericsson AXE telecomms switch is common throughout the UK read more
  • Derek J Egan: Today in the UK my partner's sister phoned us on read more
  • wtwu: @ dos - are we safe from the same Ericsson read more
  • dos: http://www.comverse.com/customers/Global.htm ...did you say safe? read more
  • Panos Toumasis: dear COSTAS GEORGOPOULOS, we went to the same high school. read more
  • wtwu: The scandal does seem to be under a lot of read more


Monthly Archives

November 2010

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence.gov.uk - Cabinet Office hosted portal website to various UK Intelligence Agencies and UK Government intelligence committees and Commissioners etc.

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protestClimate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

netcu_logo_150.gif National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit
National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit - keeps a watch on animal extremists, genetically modified crop protesters, peace protesters etc.
(some people think that the word salad of acronyms means that NETCU is a spoof website)

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."


Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme