MPs’ phones are a “gold mine for hostile states”, says Tom Tugendhat | Politics | News
Tom Tugendhat was alerted after former Prime Minister Liz Truss’ mobile phone was targeted by agents believed to be working for the Kremlin during her time as Foreign Secretary. Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle urged MPs to follow advice from the Government’s National Cyber Security Centre. He wrote to them: “As recent events have highlighted, hostile states continue to target parliamentarians to gain insight into, or exert influence over, our democratic processes for their economic, military or political advantage.”
Sir Lindsay continued: “Our phones hold so much information – our messages, emails, contacts, photos and social media posts, including private, sensitive, personal, historical and sometimes even deleted data.
“They go almost everywhere with us, and have built-in cameras and sensitive microphones, making them a potential goldmine for hostile states (as well as criminals and fraudsters) who want to obtain sensitive information about Parliament and parliamentarians.”
He added: “If hackers have turned on the microphone on one phone, everyone in the room can be overheard.”
Former soldier Tugendhat, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, heads a task force in Westminster that addresses threats to the country’s democratic institutions. He said that “our democracy is under attack” and that the Speaker “is right to warn all MPs”.
The security minister added: “That is why I am leading a new task force to bring together diverse groups that can protect our core sovereignty – the right to choose who leads us.”
Former MI6 chief Sir Alex Younger said last month that ministers needed lessons in cyber security.
He added: “Education levels are not high enough. I don’t think people focus enough on the risk to their security and devices.
“Because these are hidden, threats are not properly understood. I think that’s as true for ministers as anyone. And there’s a premium on making sure they’re educated.”
The ex-spy master said there was “no such thing” as a completely secure mobile phone.
A large amount of material was allegedly downloaded from Truss’s phone, although it is unclear when it was hacked.
Tobias Ellwood MP, chairman of the Defense Select Committee, said last month: “This is a constant threat from Russia, they are getting better and better at these cyber attacks and hacking.
“We are taking the strictest measures to ensure that does not happen.”