Moles and memory lapses betray callers
By Mike Butcher

THE perils of having intimate conversations with a lover on e-mails exposed to the public gaze are well known. While gaining access to someone’s text messages might be trickier, it is not impossible.

The first security breach could be with the owner of the phone itself. When you send a text, a copy is normally kept on the phone. Someone can easily look at the outgoing and incoming messages if they have not been deleted.

Texts were once kept on the SIM card, but newer phones store texts in their large memories. A mobile such as the Sharp model David Beckham used in his Vodafone advertisements can now hold thousands of texts, providing easy pickings for anyone snooping through the phone’s archive.

The second most likely breach can occur at the mobile network operator. When a text is sent, it passes through its “SMS gateway” en route to its recipient, but few people are aware that a copy of every text is kept by their network.

Anyone with access to these servers could snoop on Beckham’s SMS chatter.

Records of phone numbers called are kept for between six months and five years, so the content of the “text conversation” could easily be kept for any length of time.

Third, textual trysts could be intercepted by a computer hacker using software to trace texts sent from a phone and “grabbed” over radio waves. Tome Hume, a mobile technology specialist, said: “Security on GSM networks is pretty low and the ability to decrypt text messages gets easier every year.”

However, the handset or a network mole are the likeliest sources of Beckham’s woe.