LONDON (AP): Liz Truss’ personal telephone was hacked by operatives suspected to work for Russia while she was the UK’s foreign secretary, the Daily Mail newspaper said Saturday in an exclusive report.
Truss’ phone contained secret details of talks with senior foreign ministers about the war in Ukraine, including arms shipments, as well as private messages with Kwasi Kwarteng, who would later become her first chancellor when she became prime minister.
Sources told the newspaper that up to a year’s worth of messages were downloaded and they included criticisms of then-Prime Minster Boris Johnson by Truss and Kwarteng.
The British newspaper reported that the hack was discovered in the summer during the Conservative leadership contest. Truss was foreign secretary at the time.
The report said the phone is now been placed in a locked safe in a secure government location and that Truss changed her number shortly before becoming prime minister.
“We do not comment on individuals’ security arrangements. The Government has robust systems in place to protect against cyber threats. That includes regular security briefings for Ministers, and advice on protecting their personal data and mitigating cyber threats,” a government spokesperson told the Daily Mail.
An unnamed source told the newspaper that the incident caused “absolute pandemonium.”
Johnson was told “immediately,” the source said, adding: “It was agreed with the Cabinet Secretary that there should be a total news blackout. It is not a great look for the intelligence services if the Foreign Secretary’s phone can be so easily plundered for embarrassing personal messages by agents presumed to be working for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s Russia.”
The British daily reported allies of Truss saying she was worried her prospects of becoming prime minister could be damaged if the news were to become public and that she had “trouble sleeping” until Simon Case, the Cabinet secretary, imposed a news blackout.
A security source told the Daily Mail: “It takes a while to track who is behind attacks like these, whether they are individual cyber-criminals or state actors, but Russia tends to be at the top of the list.”
Earlier this year, media reports said the phone numbers of Truss and 25 senior Cabinet members, including Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, were available online from a US website for £6.49 ($6.46).
Former Senior Military Intelligence Officer Philip Ingram was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “The phone will be in a secure government location which means a secure cage where the device can be forensically examined by experts but without the hackers knowing. They will be looking to analyse what information has been lost, what is at risk and trying to work out how the phone was hacked and possibly work out by whom.”
Ingram said he was not surprised that Truss had her phone hacked seeing as her number was available online.
He urged other ministers whose phone numbers were leaked online to take action.
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