WHAT IS PHONE HACKING AND WHO DOES IT?
The Guardian's story on 'phone hacking' at the News Of The World is creating a mini-storm, partly because of the press's narcissistic desire to talk about itself.
How does phone hacking work? In essence a reporter phones the target on his/her mobile and keeps them talking. Meanwhile a second reporter phones the same number and gets through to voice mail. Armed with a list of the default settings for voicemail passwords (8888 for one phone company, 1234 for another), it is possible to get through to the targets voicemail account, assuming s/he hasn't reset the password.
When I worked on papers (outside News International), this was widespread and regarded as little more than slightly sharp practice (it's illegal now, of course). But I am certain that many journalists and newspaper groups will be quaking slightly at today's revelations. And I don't think all of them will be tabloids...