No longer the prime minister – still in the headlines. The opposition is urging the government of the United Kingdom to open an investigation into claims that Liz Truss’s personal mobile phone was potentially hacked by foreign adversaries, possibly Russian agents.
News that private messages between Truss and foreign officials, including discussions about the war in Ukraine, might have fallen into foreign hands came over the weekend.
The cyberspies were supposedly able to gain access to highly sensitive exchanges about the direction of the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These messages have included details about arms shipments to Kyiv.
The hack was allegedly discovered during the summer Tory leadership campaign while Truss was still foreign secretary, but the news was suppressed by then-prime minister Boris Johnson, the paper claims.
According to the Mail on Sunday, which first reported on the hack, leaders of the party were so horrified by the scope of the security breach that Truss’s phone, believed to be heavily compromised, has been placed in a locked safe inside a secure government location.
The government now insists “robust protocols” are in place over such issues but does not go into details. However, the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has pointedly declined to comment.
“We do take security issues incredibly seriously. That’s why, again, I have to be cautious in responding to the point that you understandably made about Liz’s phone,” Gove told Sky News.
That is why the Labour opposition does not let go of the issue. Even if most related claims are close to impossible to verify, Truss was indeed forced to change the mobile number she had used for over a decade shortly before becoming prime minister.
Truss was then given a new, government-issued device. Still, the old phone was retained so as to avoid alarm, and the messages to it were monitored.
"There are immensely important national security issues raised by an attack like this by a hostile state which will have been taken extremely seriously by our intelligence and security agencies," shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said.
"There are also serious security questions around why and how this information has been leaked or released right now which must also be urgently investigated."
According to reports, Truss’s phone was hacked by agents suspected of working for Russia, but these claims remain unverified. Besides, it’s quite reasonable to assume Truss will not have shared top-secret information via her personal phone.
However, criticism is also hitting Suella Braverman, the home secretary. She was sacked by Truss for using a personal email to send a confidential government document but has now been restored to the job by the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
According to cybersecurity experts, Westminster needs to clean up its act with regard to the use of non-official communication by ministers – be it personal phones, private email accounts, or applications such as WhatsApp.
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