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News International mail server password FAIL exposed

Full login details published along with damning letters

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A letter from News International chairman James Murdoch to the Commons Culture Select Committee has let slip details of how to gain full access to the company's MS Exchange email system – albeit the information is from four years ago.

MPs published a raft of letters this lunchtime including one from jailed News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, who claimed senior figures at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid knew that phone hacking was going on at the publication.

James Murdoch has consistently denied any knowledge of widespread phone-tapping beyond the illegal methods employed by "one rogue reporter" at the newspaper.

Among the evidence submitted to the committee was an email between an individual named Simon Avery and the company's London law firm Harbottle & Lewis co-founder Lawrence Abramson.

The email offers a step-by-step guide on how to access News International's web mail server.

It includes the URL required for accessing the company's gateway Exchange server as well as the domain and username, and was provided to Harbottle & Lewis in May 2007, a few months after Goodman was sacked in February that year.

The instructions reveal that a frankly piss-poor password (mailreview) was issued by the NI sysadmin to the lawyers.

Harbottle & Lewis had been granted "independent" access to relevant emails relating to allegations made by Goodman, who appealed his dismissal from the sister firm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp on the grounds that other individuals were aware of – and supported – illegal phone-hacking methods used by the former NotW royal correspondent.

Goodman also claimed, according to then-NI director of legal affairs Jon Chapman, that "others were carrying out similar illegal procedures" at the firm.

It was Chapman who granted Harbottle & Lewis access to emails inserted in five subfolders within NI's Exchange public folders for review by the lawyers.

The culture committee, unlike with its roughshod handling of highly sensitive details of NI's gateway, has redacted information about emails that were searched relating to six individual accounts.

Abramson concluded an email to Chapman on 25 May 2007 with the following statement:

"I can confirm that we did not find any evidence that proved that either [redacted], [redacted] or [redacted] knew that Clive Goodman, Glen Mulcaire or any other journalists at the News of the World were engaged in illegal activities prior to their arrest."

Mulcaire had worked as a private investigator at the newspaper. He was jailed for six months in January 2007 after admitting to conspiring with Goodman to illegally access voicemail messages.

In a letter on 2 March 2007 to NI HR boss Daniel Cloke, Goodman rejected News International's notice of termination of employment on the grounds of "gross misconduct".

He claimed in the missive that phone hacking was "widely discussed" at the paper and alleged that News International had promised to re-hire him after he was convicted of intercepting voicemail messages on the provision that he didn't implicate the newspaper in court.

Meanwhile, the paperwork submitted to the committee today also revealed exactly how much money Goodman was paid when he was sacked by News International in 2007.

The ex-royal editor was paid £90,502.08 and a further £140,000 in compensation. He was given another £13,000 from News International to pay for his lawyer's bill.

Separately, Harbottle & Lewis told Culture Committee chairman John Whittingdale that the firm had been given "remote electronic access to emails on News International's server".

The law firm added that the emails made available to it for review were contained in the aforementioned five sub-folders, which meant "access was not entirely straightforward". Harbottle & Lewis added that the firm had been "instructed only to look for evidence" in those folders in May 2007. ®

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