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Data Protection Commission

Commissioner urges public to secure their mobile phones - 22 July 2011

The Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes today welcomed the steps taken by eMobile, Meteor, O2, Three and Vodafone to improve the security of customer voicemail.  While the voicemail security features of some of the companies was better than others, they have all responded in an exemplary fashion to a request by the Commissioner last week to urgently examine this area to better protect their customers in the wake of the recent revelations in the UK regarding illegal access to voicemail.  The initial suggestion of the Commissioner was to make remote access to voicemail an opt-in service but he is now satisfied that the steps taken or to be taken will achieve the same common goal of better protecting customer data.

The Commissioner stated, "I am pleased that the mobile networks have shown real leadership in this area and have now all put in place or have committed to put in place in the coming days additional measures to assist their customers to protect the data on their phones.  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.  At the end of this process it will no longer be possible to access a person's voicemail using a default password."

Tommy McCabe from the industry group the Irish Cellular Industry Association commented,
"Mobile operators have in place measures 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."

The companies have outlined to this Office the following steps they are taking and customers should now follow the advice provided by their respective provider.

Meteor and eMobile
No default security PIN is applied and every customer is required to choose their own secure PIN when enabling voicemail. In an effort to encourage customers to take proactive steps to secure their voicemail service they have enhanced the information contained on both websites (www.eMobile.ie or www.meteor.ie) with additional details and guidance on how to secure voicemail services. Additionally, an educational SMS will be sent to all voicemail users in the coming days.  Customers can strengthen their password today by dialing 171 (both Meteor and eMobile) and follow the instructions.

O2 has commenced a programme of communications with customers to advise on how they can keep access to their voicemail secure at all times. The communications will include text messages to customers and a pre-recorded advisory when customers dial in to their voicemail service to retrieve messages. O2 has also updated its website with a range of security tips, available at www.o2.ie in the "Can we help you today?" section on the homepage.  Customers can change their password today by dialling 173 from their handset and follow the instructions.

Three is communicating to its customers the importance of securing their voice mail with a unique PIN known only to the customer.  The communications will include text messages to customers with advice on setting up a voicemail PIN.  There will also be an Online Help & Support update to the section on Voicemail to advise customers on the level of security they should use when setting up their PIN.  Customers can change their password today by dialling 171 (in Ireland) or +353 83 333 3171 from abroad from their handset and follow the instructions.

From tomorrow Vodafone Ireland customers will hear information when they dial 171 on how they can change their voicemail password at any time.  Voicemail and password information is also available today on Vodafone.ie.  Vodafone will continue to inform its customers in the coming weeks on new enhanced security options available to its customers.  Customers can change their password today by dialling 173 from their handset and follow the instructions.

For more information, please contact:
Diarmuid Hallinan, Office of the Data Protection Commissioner at 057 868 4800 or by email to media@dataprotection.ie