Sarah Abdurrahman is a producer for On the Media
AT&T's New Password Policy
Friday, August 05, 2011 - 02:24 PM
A few weeks ago, WNYC’s own John Keefe appeared on our program and wrote a blog about how easily he hacked into the voicemails of AT&T and Sprint cell phones. Now it appears that AT&T is changing the default setting on new phones, so that users will automatically have password protection on their voicemails unless they turn the feature off.
From AT&T’s Public Policy Blog:
Once upon a time, with the increasing popularity of talking on the go, AT&T made it easier for our wireless subscribers to get access to their cell phone voicemail boxes without having to use their password when they were calling the mailbox from their mobile device. For folks who do a lot of talking while traveling, that option proved safe and certainly more convenient (no entering four or more numbers into the telephone) for our users.
However, given the advent and, unfortunately, the wide availability of sophisticated telephone number spoofing technology that allows people to “fake” the telephone number they are calling from, we are moving in a new direction. We have long encouraged our subscribers who might have concerns about voicemail privacy to establish passwords and to set their voicemail preferences to require the use of a password whenever voicemail is accessed.
Beginning today, however, we will automatically set the default voicemail setting to Password Protect on any new subscriber or new line added to an existing account…
…We wish that we did not have to make this change. While there may be legitimate reasons for a caller to mask their phone number, broadly available commercial spoofing technology is wide open to misuse. As in so many other situations, it is the misuse of the technology rather than the technology itself that is the problem. So we will take these extra steps to make sure that our customers know exactly how to get the level of security that is right for each of them.