Murdoch Tabloids’ Targets Included Downing Street and the Crown – NYTimes.com
MORE ON ‘FINGER-FISHING’
Separately, an inquiry by The New York Times, which included interviews with two former journalists at The News of the World, has revealed the workings of the illicit cellphone-tracking, which the former tabloid staffers said was known in the newsroom as “pinging.” Under British law, the technology involved is restricted to law enforcement and security officials, requires case-by-case authorization, and is used mainly for high-profile criminal cases and terrorism investigations, according to a former senior Scotland Yard official who requested anonymity so as to be able to speak candidly.
According to Oliver Crofton, a cybersecurity specialist who works to protect high-profile clients from such invasive tactics, cellphones are constantly pinging off relay towers as they search for a network, enabling an individual’s location to be located within yards by checking the strength of the signal at three different towers. But the former Scotland Yard official who discussed the matter said that any officer who agreed to use the technique to assist a newspaper would be crossing a red line.
“That would be a massive breach,” he said.
A former show-business reporter for The News of the World, Sean Hoare, who was fired in 2005, said that when he worked there, pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion. He first found out how the practice worked, he said, when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors, Greg Miskiw, could help. Mr. Miskiw asked for the person’s cellphone number, and returned later with information showing the person’s precise location in Scotland, Mr. Hoare said. Mr. Miskiw, who faces questioning by police on a separate matter, did not return calls for comment.
A former Scotland Yard officer said the individual who provided the information could have been one of a small group entitled to authorize pinging requests, or a lower-level officer who duped his superiors into thinking that the request was related to a criminal case. Mr. Hoare said the fact that it was a police officer was clear from his exchange with Mr. Miskiw.