Ericsson MD's international spy scandal

Summary:Who would have imagined that Ericsson's new local managing director would have an immediate past enmeshed in international espionage?

Who would have imagined that Ericsson's new local managing director would have an immediate past enmeshed in international espionage?

I certainly didn't, when back in June I asked readers for anecdotes from Bill Zikou's life. The executive took over from incumbent Barry Borzillo on July 10, relocating from South East Europe.

Following my blog entry a number of readers sent me this March 17Athens News article, which includes the inflammatory paragraph:

"Bill Zikou, an engineer whose family left Greece when he was five, could never have imagined that his return as the executive of a top multinational would put him at the centre of an internal spy scandal and a local corporate war."

It appears as if hackers managed to bug the lines of some of Greece's government and military (including the Prime Minister), gaining access through Ericsson technology installed at Vodafone's Greek operation.

Bill Zikou

This would have been bad enough ... but it appears as if the hackers got in through Ericsson's "legal interception" software -- which Vodafone denied all knowledge of.

Zikou apparently faced off against Vodafone Greece boss George Koronias in a parliamentary hearing on the matter on March 15.

There, Zikou apparently suggested there must have been a security breach at Vodafone and that the carrier needed to improve its safeguards.

"Zikou maintained that responsibility for the security break burdens Vodafone exclusively," the story states.

Now with all due apologies to Zikou, who after all was only doing his job, one has to wonder how vulnerable Australian telcos are to this problem.

The Athens News states some details of the Ericsson interception software are publicly available on the Internet, and some of the nation's major carriers have extensive deals with Ericsson -- for example, Telstra and Hutchison.

Australia's telephone surveillance system is certainly alive and well ... Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock said this in a May statement:

"Telecommunications interception is an essential investigative tool which allows law enforcement agencies to identify persons involved in serious criminal activities, particularly drug syndicates."

Let's hope Zikou never has to face a repeat scenario Down Under.

What do you think of Ericsson's stoush with Vodafone in Greece? Who should have taken responsibility? Post your thoughts below or drop me a line at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au.

Topics: Telcos, Mobility

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