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14 July 2011, 12:05

Ex-Prime Minister accuses News International of using spyware

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Trojan icon Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the UK, yesterday accused News International, owners of The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the now closed News of The World, of having used trojans to spy on members of the public. In a debate in the House of Commons, he referred to the "the systematic use of base and unlawful methods—new crimes with new names: blagging, hacking, Trojans to break into computers and not just phones" and described the company's actions as "lawbreaking often on an industrial scale, at its worst dependent on links with the British criminal underworld."

Brown's accusations came during a debate over whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, owner of News International, should be allowed to bid for BSkyB. News International's News of the World was disclosed to have been using "phone hacking", better described as voicemail interception, on missing children, murder victim's families and many others. News International has closed the News of the World and News Corp has withdrawn its bid for BSkyB, but the scandal has not stopped, and now the other News International newspapers are being accused of the same tactics and worse.

Graham Cluley of Sophos noted that two prominent bloggers believe that the Sunday Times attempted to plant malware on their systems in an attempt to uncover their identities. The BBC's Panorama also reported on the use of trojans by News International employees or contractors earlier in the year (Panorama's Tabloid Hacks Exposed - BBC iPlayer link, UK only). Now the accusations are being made in the House of Commons, by former Prime Ministers; a forthcoming inquiry into the "phone hacking" scandal is being convened, but whether the use of spyware will be within the scope of that inquiry is, as yet, unclear.


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