Your smartphone carries a huge amount of personal data — and National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a good time to safeguard your mobile phone with best practices such as the use of strong passwords, keeping software up to date, being cautious on public WiFi networks, and more.

If you’re in need of a cautionary tale related to phone security, look no further than the UK phone hacking scandal of the early 2000s. In November 2005, the British tabloid News of the World printed a story about Prince William’s visit to a knee surgeon. The prince became suspicious — the information could have only come from his voicemail.

Investigations began and culminated in a 2011 trial and revealed that tabloid journalists (some of whom later worked in communications positions at the highest levels of the British government) had exploited the use of factory-set phone passwords to intercept the personal details of the royal family and other celebrities.

In addition to Prince William, Prince Harry, and Kate Middleton, affected personalities included Hugh Grant, Elton John, Paul McCartney and his then-wife Heather Mills, J.K. Rowling, Sienna Miller, and Elle Macpherson. The News of the World had even hacked into the voicemail of missing teenager Milly Dowler and deleted messages, giving her family false hope she was still alive.

Effects of the hack continue to be felt

The hacking trial caused the 168-year-old News of the World to fold — and damaged the reputation of powerful media personalities, including Piers Morgan and the Murdoch family (owner of News Corp., the conglomerate that owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, among others).

The hacking scandal is back in the news thanks to a pair of anti-media lawsuits brought by Prince Harry, now the Duke of Sussex. It’s unclear what has prompted the prince to resurrect the issue — but hopefully he’s changed his phone password.

Photo: Ewelina Wachala / Shutterstock

Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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