After a wild phone-hacking spree into some 700 voicemails of frenemies, boyfriends and others, former Dolce & Gabbana publicist and wannabe socialite, Ali Wise, has been arrested and charged on 17 criminal counts.
Her accomplice, according to court documents: free software called SpoofCard. Used to snoop on such high-profile socialistas as Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, SpoofCard allows users to disguise their numbers and access other people's voicemail.
Although Wise's case revolves around the glitzy lives of the fashion world's famous, corporate spies have used similar technology for years, including the infamous "pretexting" case in which Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) spied on its own board members.
In this case, the formerly high-flying "p.r. princess" for top fashion house Dolce & Gabbana, was engaged in an apparently vicious battle with designer Nina Freudenberger, whose voicemails she hacked into after Freudenberger started dating Wise's ex, music executive Josh Deutsch. The New York Post reported that Wise's victims also included her on-again, off-again beau, hotelier Jason Pomeranc.
Wise is now charged with four counts each of computer trespassing, eavesdropping, computer tampering, and aggravated harassment, plus one count of stalking. When questioned by the police, Wise confessed, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by DailyFinance.
"I used the SpoofCard to get into her voicemails," Wise is quoted as saying, referring to Freudenberger.
Wise, 30, allegedly listened in on the phone messages and deleted those that displeased her. Wise's lawyer, Ed Kratt, told CBS News: "SpoofCard is readily available on the Internet to anybody who wants to use it. One of the issues is whether Ali realized what she was doing was unlawful and the answer to that is clearly she did not."
The Post reported that Wise has now become "radioactive" in the fashion PR business.
Meir Cohen, founder of the company that makes SpoofCard, told the network that "a few years back, Paris Hilton was using our technology to access a whole bunch of Hollywood celebrities' voicemail, including Lindsay Lohan, and we had to terminate her account for misusing it." He said users must sign an agreement not to use the service illegally.
But SpoofCards' own web site boasts a testimonial from a customer who says he uses SpoofCard "for my work in the PI business. It helps me locate people who would otherwise not be located, as well as gain information necessary in my investigations."
It's not just celebrities who have to be worried about their privacy. In recent years, major corporate espionage cases have also involved voicemail hacking. In 2006, three former Hewlett-Packard operatives were charged with illegally spying on the company's board members and reporters in an effort to stanch high-level leaks. As I wrote at the time, it was sordid drama that besmirched the reputation of the pioneering Silicon Valley firm and led to state and federal laws banning the practice -- known as "pretexting" -- of impersonating people to obtain their phone records.
Ali Wise couldn't deal with the fact that her ex-boyfriend was dating someone else, so she broke into and spied on their voicemails. It's the stuff of soap operas, but a useful reminder to everyone about data security. Wise now faces up to four years in jail.
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