back to article Hoaxer posing as GCHQ boss prank-calls PM Cameron

A hoax caller claiming to be GCHQ's chief spy was put through to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s phone on Sunday. The caller pretended to be Robert Hannigan, director of the government's signal intelligence agency, but he apparently didn't fool the prime minister and the call was quickly terminated. A few days ago, Hannigan …

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Two very different incidents

It seems to me that it may not be that big a deal that someone fluked a call through to the PM, as long as he's smart enough not to be social engineered (is he?). But the handing out of a mobile number, whether classified or not, for any employee, let alone a senior one, is a serious security breach. You try phoning my company (a bit of Googling will tell you who it is) and I will be absolutely gobsmacked if they give you my mobile number, job title or even confirm that I work there.

We expect GCHQ to be at least as resistant to social-engineering as major corporations, don't we? What really worries me is if the disclosed number was used to enable the second incident - did DC see a caller ID which initially led him to believe it was the director of GCHQ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Two very different incidents

What is Cameron hiding?

I hope the phone call was unencrypted.

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Re: Two very different incidents

That really sounds like a challenge !!

i would word that differently If I were you

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Re: Two very different incidents

"handing out of a mobile number, whether classified or not, for any employee, let alone a senior one, is a serious security breach."

From what the story said, the hoaxer called the PM's aides, they put the call through to "Hug-a-hoodie" Cameron. So surely DC needs to give his aides a bloody good bollocking for not checking the call was genuine?

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Re: Two very different incidents

But the handing out of a mobile number, whether classified or not, for any employee, let alone a senior one, is a serious security breach.

I'm expecting "prank calling" to be reclassified as "phone terrorism" at some point over the next few weeks, so that the perpetrator can be extraordinarily rendered (definition 18).

Also note that many employees put their mobile number in email signatures; those things sent plain text over the internet that anyone with a mail relay can intercept and read, not to mention programmatically parse for "M: <number>" or variations therein. You have to assume that anyone with an agenda already knows the phone numbers of most of your workforce, because it is fairly trivial to get hold of that information (you can even just buy a cold calling list or 2 and filter it for contact details for your own company, as a quick check of how much is out there already).

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Re: Two very different incidents

"You have to assume that anyone with an agenda already knows the phone numbers of most of your workforce" -- NumptyScrub

Agreed, but I don't think that being aware that serious actors already have this information should cause one to drop one's guard -- I doubt the person who provided the number thought it through and decided, well, all our enemies have the director's personal number anyway, so what's the harm? Giving away a personal detail like this is symptomatic of an organisation inadequately defended against social engineering attacks.

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Anonymous Coward

"the hoaxer who told the red-top he was “off [his] face on booze and cocaine” when he rang the PM..."

Well, assuming he takes calls from his backbenchers, he'll be well used to talking to people in that condition.

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> Well, assuming he takes calls from his backbenchers cabinet, he'll be well used to talking to people in that condition.

FTFY

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I assumed the caller meant that Cameron was ...

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"the hoaxer who told the red-top he was “off [his] face on booze and cocaine” when he rang the PM..."

Well, assuming he takes calls from his backbenchers, he'll be well used to talking to people in that condition.

___________________

Not just backbenchers if the rumours about the Chancellor of the Exchequer turn out to be true.

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So was the call to the PM:

- to make him aware of a Government-backed scheme....

- in connection with the car accident he had recently; or

- from Microsoft technical department about the peroblem with his computer?

We should be told!

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Anonymous Coward

I don't see wy the PM's phone is so special, If normal people have to put up with almost daily automated calls about PPI* and and car accidents** that we could claim for, maybe the PM should as well to prompt them into doing something about them. In fact I'd have been tempted to enter his number into as many dodgy marketing sites as possible!

*My best response for stumping somene calling me about PPI, when I tried to tell them I didn't have PPI and to sod off... I told them I'd probably have noticed since I worked in the loans department of a bank, selling people PPI... :) I spent 5 years of my career, 4 years building IT systems for selling it quicker, then 'fairly' and then auditing it all up the wazoo, then one year of stripping it all out again :)

** I'm almost tempted to press the buttton for an operator and see how far I can take one of these before having to admit I can't drive and don't own a car.

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Anonymous Coward

Optional

But all phone metadata is already collected so does the fact that they haven't already arrested somebody mean that having metadata does not really help the security services catch people doing naughty things (tm)?

Isn't that the justification for collecting email and web metadata "like we already do and have always done for phones" (we have always been at war with Eurasia).

Just sayin'

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Black Helicopters

Re: Optional

I expect the prime suspect is "falling down the stairs" as we speak. Having already admitted to the Currant Bun that he was off his head - quite literally wont have a leg to stand on.

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Coat

Re: Optional

"But all phone metadata is already collected so does the fact that they haven't already arrested somebody mean that having metadata does not really help the security services catch people doing naughty things (tm)?"

It was probably just Tony pissing about.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Optional

> does the fact that they haven't already arrested somebody mean that having metadata does not really help the security services catch people doing naughty things (tm)?

But did the caller actually do anything illegal?

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Re: Optional

Actually what I find interesting is the coincidence of these prank calls being announced and Theresa May’s Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill (aka Snoopers’ Charter) is due to return to the commons after being discussed in the Lords. I suspect that once again the UK press are being manipulated, just as they are with respect their other current hobby horse NHS Accident and Emergency service levels.

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Re: Optional

Admit he was off his tits while calling the PM in a national newspaper, which is probably worthy of an investigation.

And if they didn't know who he was, they certainly did after he called the Sun.

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Re: But did the caller actually do anything illegal?

Prank calls come in many forms. It has to involve some lies, or it wouldn't be a prank, but not all of those lies are illegal. Which is usually open to interpretations and disputes.

Case in point: once upon a time, there was a stand-up comedian who was really good at impersonating celebrity voices. So he allegedly used his skills to get a taxi on the New Year's Eve. Usual dispatch queues were measured in hours, but when a well-known celebrity voice called (conveniently 'forgetting' the introduction part!) there was a taxi available in ten minutes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Optional

and was it the prankster who called the Sun at all?

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Re: Optional

Doesn't matter, it's enough to start an investigation.

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direct call

The most interesting thing about this silly prank is that it reveals that usual practice is to give the head of GCHQ immediate and direct access to the PM, no questions asked.

I bet most of his cabinet members don't even get that.

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Re: direct call

I can't think of a single emergency situation where the Cabinet would need to speak to the PM immediately, whilst I can think of a few for the head of GCHQ.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: direct call

> it reveals that usual practice is to give the head of GCHQ immediate and direct access to the PM, no questions asked.

Surely in a democracy, any citizen should be able to just ring up the PM?

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Re: direct call

If the PM and the Director of GCHQ need to talk 'business' they have a secure line. I would assume that as the phones that were accessed were not secure lines, they were effectively for normal business calls.

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Re: direct call

Indeed. But a secure call would likely be preceded by an unclass call to arrange the secure call (be in the presence of secure handset, have correct keys ready etc).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: direct call

Ring up, sure! Get through?! Fuck, no!

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Re: direct call

Secure line? Isn't that what they want to make illegal?

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Re: direct call

Nearly a quarter-century later and I still have to bite my tongue not to toss in "this is not a secure line, subject to monitoring," when answering the phone. I would expect that they'd know which sort of line is being used. Now if they do make those illegal, I'll be sure to answering the phone that way again {evil grin}.

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Not a good effort

Assuming the PM's version is remotely true, the caller's first mistake was not knowing what time it was in Blighty. This fact was revealed in the first few seconds of the call.

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Anonymous Coward

Quick

Raise the terror level alert to HYPER. If THEY got that far, Jesus, think what else they could find out!

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This post has been deleted by its author

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A New Dawning for Downing Street Squatters? Oh Yes, Primed Minister. Undoubtedly and Undeniably

Excuse me, but y'all haven't been paying attention. And expect more of the same sort of shenanigans, but with altogether different results. One cannot have prigs and prats lounging in offices for which they are not able to enable, can one? Such results in all sorts of austere nonsense and fanciful skullduggery ....... http://www.zdnet.com/article/gchq-nsa-cyber-war-games-will-test-bank-security/

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Anonymous Coward

Nice Photo Of A Relaxed PM.

All it needs now is a photoshopped entry wound to his forehead with imaginary HOLLOW-POINT ammunition.

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Reason for call

A fair guess would be that someone has won a bet.

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Devil

The caller gave himself away...

When he expressed surprise that Cameron answered the phone with "Yes Master, what does the Donut command?!"

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Joke

Re: The caller gave himself away...

Not without the caller saying if it was Krispy Kreme, jam or custard he wouldn't - Cameron is not that stupid!

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