Rus­sian hack­ers ‘stole clas­si­fied files from UK min­is­ter’s email’

Irish Independent - - World News - Gor­don Rayner LON­DON

RUS­SIAN hack­ers stole clas­si­fied doc­u­ments from the email ac­count of a Bri­tish cabi­net min­is­ter be­fore they were used by Jeremy Cor­byn to at­tack the govern­ment, it was claimed last night.

Dr Liam Fox, the for­mer in­ter­na­tional trade sec­re­tary, was the vic­tim of what ap­pears to have been a “state-backed” op­er­a­tion ahead of last year’s gen­eral elec­tion, sources said.

The re­ports prompted a re­view of govern­ment se­cu­rity last night as min­is­ters and MPs were re­minded of the need to fol­low rules set out by the UK’s Na­tional Cy­ber Se­cu­rity Cen­tre, part of GCHQ.

If the claims – which are cur­rently the sub­ject of a po­lice

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Reuters, Rus­sian hack­ers ac­cessed Dr Fox’s ac­count mul­ti­ple times be­tween July 12 and Oc­to­ber 21 last year.

It is un­clear which of Dr Fox’s email ac­counts was hacked and when it was first com­pro­mised, or whether the suc­cess­ful at­tempt to ac­cess his email hap­pened be­fore or af­ter he lost his role as in­ter­na­tional trade sec­re­tary in Boris Johnson’s cabi­net reshuf­fle on July 24 last year.

The re­port comes amid in­creas­ing ten­sions be­tween

Lon­don and Moscow, with the re­la­tion­ship de­te­ri­o­rat­ing since the Sal­is­bury Novi­chok poi­son­ings of 2018.

Last month a re­port into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in democ­racy by the UK par­lia­ment’s in­tel­li­gence and se­cu­rity com­mit­tee con­cluded that Rus­sia had at­tempted to in­flu­ence the out­come of the Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum in 2014.

The UK govern­ment also an­nounced last month that a group of hack­ers linked to Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence had tried to steal de­tails of Bri­tain’s re­search into a coro­n­avirus vac­cine.

Dr Fox’s email ac­count was re­port­edly hacked us­ing a so-called “spear phish­ing” mes­sage, which tricks the target into hand­ing over their pass­word and lo­gin de­tails.

Sources said it was not clear if the hack­ers who stole the trade doc­u­ments were the same peo­ple who later leaked them on­line. Pre­vi­ous re­ports had sug­gested it was one of Dr Fox’s ad­vis­ers who was the vic­tim of the hack.

Dr Fox, who is Bri­tain’s nom­i­nee for the post of di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion, was not avail­able for com­ment last night.

How­ever, a spokesman for the UK Cabi­net Of­fice said: “There is an on­go­ing crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into how the doc­u­ments were ac­quired, and it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment fur­ther at this point. But as you would ex­pect, the govern­ment has very ro­bust sys­tems in place.” (© Daily Tele­graph Lon­don)

in­ves­ti­ga­tion – are proven, it would be the first time a cur­rent or for­mer Bri­tish min­is­ter had been suc­cess­fully tar­geted by Rus­sian hack­ers. Last month Do­minic Raab, the UK for­eign sec­re­tary, an­nounced that “Rus­sian ac­tors” had sought to in­ter­fere in the De­cem­ber elec­tion “through the on­line am­pli­fi­ca­tion of il­lic­itly ac­quired and leaked govern­ment doc­u­ments”. He was re­fer­ring to stolen de­tails of US-UK trade ne­go­ti­a­tions, which were pub­lished on­line and used by then Labour leader Mr Cor­byn to claim the NHS was be­ing put up for sale. Mr Raab stopped short of say­ing who he be­lieved had stolen the doc­u­ments in the first place and how they were ob­tained. Target: For­mer UK trade sec­re­tary Dr Liam Fox fell vic­tim to ‘phish­ing’

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