Update September 2015 -
See James Bamford's article A DEATH IN ATHENS - Did a Rogue NSA Operation Cause the Death of a Greek Telecom Employee?
There has been no assurance that similar spying has not happened in the United Kingdom
The scandal unfolding in Greece, reported by the Independent over the revelations that politicians mobile phones, including those of the Greek prime minister etc. had been intercepted by Vodafone, before and after the 2004 Olympic Games.
Is the Vodafone mobile phone network similarly vulnerable here in the United Kingdom ?
The eavesdropping system operated through the local Vodafone mobile service, and was discovered when the company began an investigation into customer complaints involving lost text messages.
The inquest discovered that an illegal software code had been introduced to activate a Vodafone sub-system permitting call interception. This code had been entered without Vodafone's knowledge, the government said.
In addition to the prime minister, four top ministers also had their cellphones tapped, as did European Union environment commissioner Stavros Dimas and Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyannis, among others.
Other targets included a cellphone belonging to the US embassy, and phones used by several ministries and the general staff of the Greek Navy.
In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Vodafone Greece admitted it had removed the spyware before informing the government.
Yesterday, it added that copies of the software were retained, and that related evidence had been submitted to the authorities.
The Greek defence ministry, which saw the cellphones of most of its top brass compromised, insisted that "all conversations pertaining to matters of national security are always conducted on encrypted networks".
Asked about the issue on Thursday, government spokesman Roussopoulos likewise deemed that the tapping had caused "no damage" to Greece's national interests.
"The prime minister and the cabinet members use encrypted phones," he said.
Did Vodafone Greece disabling of the "conference call" style mobile phone interception to the alleged "14 to 15" pre-paid mobile phone handsets even before they informed the Greek Government, actually let the culprits slip away undetected ?
There should have been a chance for the Greek authorities to triangulate the locations of these handsets, much more accurately than to the nearest 4 cell phone transmitters,
It should be noted that the pre-paid phone cards used operated on aerials located in Lycabettus, Mavili Square, Pyrgos Athinon and Lefkos Stavros clinic,
The foreign embassies, including those of the United Kingdom and the United States, the Greek Parliament and the Hellenic Ministry of Defence are all situated close to each other in central Athens at the base of the Acropolis hill.
The list of 44 surveillance targets (some of whom had more than one Vodafone phone) also includes some Arabic businessmen , as well as the Governemnt politicans, opposition politicians and military personnel.
The Sunday Times also reports the suspicious timing of the suicide of a key Vodafone employee:
As part of the government's investigation into the scandal, the suicide of Kostas Tsalikidis, 39, Vodafone Greece's head of network design, is being re-examined by police.
Tsalikidis was found hanged in his Athens flat on the morning of March 9, 2005, two days after the ghost program had been discovered and shut down by George Koronias, the Vodafone general manager, and a day before the prime minister's office was informed.
Even specially extra encrypted mobile phones using the Mobile Phone networks still yield important Communications Traffic Data i.e. which phone number is calling or receiving or sending SMS messages to which other one, at which time. The mobile phone Cell Location Data is independent of the phone handsest to handset encrypted tunnels, and so would also be available to a "hacker" or "intelligence agency" via a compromised mobile phone network, such as the one reported above.
Together with the Portuguese scandal,which also has seen the release of Communications Traffic Data records of many politicians, as part of the investigation into the Casa Pia child abuse ringl, has implications for the UK government's current dithering over the "Wilson Doctrine"