Mobiles are ‘potential goldmines’ for hostile states, MPs warned | The House of Commons
MPs have been warned that their phones are a “potential gold mine” for hostile states targeting them to affect UK democracy.
Advice was shared by Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle, suggesting MPs should not take their phones into sensitive meetings, given the threat posed by state-sponsored hackers, as well as criminals and fraudsters.
Other security measures MPs were asked to take included setting up multi-factor authentication, which requires two forms of identification to access resources or data, as well as updating software and deleting old messages.
The advice came from the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), accompanied by a letter from Hoyle telling colleagues that just one person’s phone camera or microphone would have to be compromised for everyone in a room to be put at risk.
After Liz Truss’ phone was allegedly hacked by Russians, Hoyle said “recent events” had shown that hostile states were trying to “gain insight into, or exert influence over, our democratic processes for their economic, military or political advantage”.
He added: “Our phones hold so much information: our messages, emails, contacts, photos and social media – including private, sensitive, personal, historical and sometimes even deleted data.”
Truss’s phone was allegedly hacked during the summer when she was Foreign Secretary and front-runner in the Tory leadership race.
According to the Mail on Sunday, spies suspected of working for the Kremlin were given access to sensitive information, including discussions about the war in Ukraine and private conversations with Kwasi Kwarteng, who would later become her chancellor.
Hoyle said that “while no personal mobile phone can ever be made completely secure from a particular nation-state attacker”, 10 “top tips” were drawn up by the NCSC to make the devices “as resilient as possible”.
In a letter revealed by HuffPost UK, he added: “You may not feel able to do everything on this list, but the more you do, the less likely your personal information and mobile phone will be compromised, or the less harmful consequences if you are hacked.”
MPs were advised to limit the length of time messages were stored on their phone, review their privacy settings to limit apps’ access to their microphone or location data, and disable message previews.
Other suggestions were for MPs to: “wipe” any devices they no longer used and intended to pass on; use a password manager; and be aware of your surroundings while using the phone.
Security Secretary Tom Tugendhat is leading a taskforce in Westminster to address threats to Britain’s democratic institutions.
He has said that “our democracy is under attack” and that the speaker had “the right to warn all MPs”.
“That’s why I’m chairing a new task force to bring together diverse groups that can protect our core sovereignty — the right to choose who leads us,” he added.
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the defense select committee, has previously warned that if Truss’s phone was hacked, “other senior government, diplomatic and military figures will be too”.