Key quote "It's sort of an open secret in Fleet Street that there are certain reporters who have made their currency in getting stories this way. Their standard method is to get into people's phone messages by working out the default PIN for their service provider." - James Herring, of Taylor Herring Communications
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THE Royal phone hacking inquiry was prompted by Prince William after he became alarmed that details of two private conversations had leaked out.
Details about the prince's role came as the investigation widened to include senior politicians, celebrities and sports personalities, amid warnings about the "relatively simple" practice of phone hacking.
Clive Goodman, 48, the royal editor of the News of the World, was questioned by police yesterday over alleged security breaches involving the mobile phones of royal officials. He and two other men were arrested on Tuesday over claims that messages left on phones belonging to members of staff at Clarence House had been hacked into.
The inquiry is being handled by the anti-terrorist branch, and the three men were held under Section 1 of the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, under which the maximum penalty is two years in jail.
Tom Bradby, ITV's political editor, told yesterday how details of a meeting he had arranged with Prince William appeared in the newspaper before it had taken place. When he eventually met William, the prince raised concerns over a story that had appeared last November about a meeting with his knee surgeon.
Mr Bradby said: "When he and I hooked up, we both looked at each other and said, 'Well, how on earth did that get out?'" They concluded that mobile phone voicemail messages could have been intercepted, he said.
Scotland Yard was contacted, triggering a seven-month investigation. Detectives are trying to trace other numbers acquired during the inquiry which are believed to belong to the likes of politicians, celebrities and footballers. One source said: "The investigation is taking us to all walks of public life."
Max Clifford, the public relations guru, said he believed his phone might have been monitored. He is to be interviewed.
James Herring, of Taylor Herring Communications, said he had been warning clients, such as Robbie Williams, Catherine Tate, Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, about security issues involving voicemail for years.
He said: "It's an open secret in Fleet Street that there are certain reporters who have made their currency in getting stories this way. Their standard method is to get into people's phone messages by working out the default PIN for their service provider.
"There have been situations where a celebrity will try to access voice messages and won't be able to because someone has gone into their phone and changed the PIN. It's been going on for a while, but some people obviously aren't wise to it."
Jack Wraith, the chairman of the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum, said people should think twice about leaving "sensitive or potentially embarrassing" messages on voicemail.
Jeremy Marks, an electronics expert and director of the website spycatcheronline, said it was not difficult to intercept voicemail. "The default PIN code you are given by the manufacturer [to access voicemails] is the same for everyone and it's up to you to personalise it. If you don't, anyone can get into it."
He said hackers could also buy a cellular interceptor device for about 130,000 to listen in to a person retrieving messages.
• Last night two men, aged 48 and 35, were charged with one count of conspiring to intercept voicemail messages and eight counts of intercepting voicemail messages. They were released on bail and are due to appear at Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court next Wednesday.