Allegations made on Wednesday by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that journalists working for Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid used malicious software to break into and gather information from computers belonging to the subjects of investigations was greeted with a strong denial by a spokewoman from News International.
The allegations were “absolute nonsense,”said Daisy Dunlop, a spokesperson from the Sunday Times parent company News International. “No complaint had been made” by any of the accusers, she said.
Speaking before the House of Commons on July 13, Brown said that reporters working for Murdoch’s News of the World “systematically” used “unlawful methods” that included “blagging, hacking (and) Trojans to break into computers and not just phones.”
Previous allegations have focused on unlawful access to and tampering with voice mailboxes. Brown, in his comments, suggested that the voice mail hacking was part of a much larger web of illegal information gathering.
“It was not the misconduct of a few rogues or a few freelancers but, I have to say, lawbreaking often on an industrial scale, at its worst dependent on links with the British criminal underworld.”
The allegations, made by Brown in the British House of Commons on Wednesday, darkened what was already a sordid tale of “phone hacking” targeted at members of the British Royal Family, celebrities, sports figures and, it now appears, the victims of sensational crimes and terrorist attacks.
It is not clear what led Brown to suspect a wider scandal or the use of malicious software. A spokesman for The Metropolitan Police said they were unaware of the allegations, but to their knowledge, had not received any formal complaint or initiated any investigation.
Brown’s was the first indication that malicious software may have been used to gather personal information from the subjects of News of the World investigations. But the new allegations dovetail with other, first hand reports. Two sex bloggers, Belle de Jour and Zoe Margolis, claim that a News of the World sister publication, the Sunday Times, sent them emails containing malware.
Margolis has since indicated, via Twitter, that she is considering filing a criminal complaint in the matter.