NEWS

Key areas are investigated in mobile phone-tapping probe

Investigators with the Communications Privacy Protection Authority (ADAE), looking into the tapping of state mobile phones, are searching for unexplained breakdowns and blackouts in Vodafone’s software, as they believe that the operation of the system would have been affected by the installation of the bugs, perhaps due to the need for a momentary closure of the AXE-10 centers in order to install the bug without creating chaos. On and around Tuesday, July 20, 2004, a number of such malfunctions were reported by Vodafone customers, and these are now believed to be linked to the installation of the tapping software. Evidence so far collected points to a single «firm» that funded the construction of the bug by accessing Ericsson’s «lawful interception program» after securing an entry card to Vodafone’s premises. According to sources, the infiltrators not only managed to set up the bugging software but to install it successfully and even improve on it; they were able to alter the list of targets and to pinpoint their movements by means of a program that sent an SMS when they were on the move and covered by another transmitter. The month to come is seen as crucial for the investigation, which is concentrating on certain specific areas. First of all, technical advisers are not convinced that it became impossible to trace the mystery holders of the card phones involved in the tapping after the illegal software was deactivated on March 8 of last year. These phones went on functioning as usual, unless someone at Vodafone or elsewhere warned them to turn them off or destroy their SIM cards. Then there is the question of which individuals had access to Vodafone’s three centers – for example, Ericsson technicians and staff members of other technical firms. However, it is not certain that full details exist, and if they do, whether they will be made available. The existence of log files is crucial to providing information concerning all access to Vodafone software, and of the identity of all those who worked with it during the time the phone-tapping was going on. All these individuals would have been issued with a password. It has been claimed that log files related to technical work are not kept for longer than a month but also that the firm has kept data for the period of just a few days before the start of the Olympics. By accessing the three digital centers, investigators are also trying to find out where and when the tapping began, how many hours of phone time were recorded, when «improvements» were made and what data were tapped and for how long. The citing of national security risks has allowed evidence to be suppressed and guilty parties to escape. Meanwhile last week, which was also when Vodafone CEO Giorgos Koronias gave his testimony to Parliament, mutual accusations began flying between Vodafone and Ericsson, although their dispute seems to be localized given that they have just signed an agreement for 3G equipment in Germany. The two firms appear to be hiding something significant: that Ericsson, as with every manufacturer, hands over a code to all its customers along with the software. Koronias insists that only Ericsson manufactures the software, which is correct, although it has many sub-contractors around the world for various reasons, including costs. One of these is Intracom, which has the technological know-how and the code for these centers, as well as all the equipment and information needed to manufacture software to infiltrate Ericsson’s.