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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Hackgate: Computer hacking

Confirmation of what both the Despatches (C4) and Panorama (BBC1) docs on Hackgate flagged up last year: the hacking was NOT restricted to mobile phones/answer messages, but also emails and computers (including agents in Northern Ireland as well as a range of Labour government ministers.
Restrictions have just been lifted on reporting the conviction of Philip Campbell Smith; here's an extract from a Guardian report (full article here):
A man at the centre of allegations that computers were hacked for the News of the World has been convicted of conspiring to illegally access private information for profit.
Until Monday legal restrictions meant that what is known about Philip Campbell Smith's alleged involvement in computer hacking could not be reported.
Smith is alleged to have hacked the computer of a former British army intelligence officer in 2006 as part of a commission from the News of the World. In a tape recording, Smith says he was in contact with Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who went on to become David Cameron's director of communications. Smith also claimed Coulson was in his mobile phone directory.
Smith is understood to be under investigation by a Scotland Yard inquiry, Operation Kalmyk, which is examining allegations that email hacking may have been used against several dozen targets.
The allegations against Smith highlight growing concern over computer hacking. Met officers are known to have approached leading members of the Labour party as possible victims, including Gordon Brown, the former No 10 communications chief Alastair Campbell, the former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain, and Tom Watson, the backbench Labour MP who has been particularly vocal in the phone-hacking scandal. If any of the Labour figures were targets, it is not known who carried out the hacking and for whom.
The computer that Smith is suspected of hacking belonged to the former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst.
The computer hacking involving Smith is alleged to have been carried out in July 2006 by sending Hurst an email containing a trojan virus that copied Hurst's emails and relayed them back to the hacker. It is claimed this was commissioned by Alex Marunchak, who was a senior editor on the News of the World when it was edited by Coulson.
The material accessed by the hacker included messages concerning at least two agents who had informed on the Provisional IRA: Freddie Scappaticci, codenamed Stakeknife, and a second informant known as Kevin Fulton. Both men were regarded as high-risk targets for assassination. Hurst was one of the few people who knew their whereabouts and the emails contained information capable of disclosing this.

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