Exclusive: Commons Speaker Warns MPs That Hostile States Target Their Phones

MPs have been told not to have their mobiles in the room when they are having sensitive conversations.
Liz Truss on her mobile phone and MPs in the Commons
Liz Truss on her mobile phone and MPs in the Commons
PA and Getty

MPs have been told to drastically ramp up security on their mobile phones as they are being targeted by “hostile states”.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has written to MPs, warning them their phones are a “potential goldmine” for spies, criminals and fraudsters.

He has issued them with detailed advice from the National Cyber Security Centre [NCSC] on how to safeguard phones from a “determined nation state attacker”.

The advice includes not using mobile phones for sensitive conversations or even having them in the room in case they are being listened to.

It comes after it was revealed Liz Truss’s phone was hacked by Russia when she was serving as foreign secretary.

Kremlin agents are said to have gained access to sensitive exchanges with foreign officials on Ukraine and private conversations with Kwasi Kwarteng.

Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has also suggested ministers should be ordered to hand over their phones before attending meetings.

In an email seen by HuffPost UK, Hoyle said that hostile states “continue to target parliamentarians” to exert influence over MPs for their own advantage.

The speaker warned MPs their mobiles have cameras and microphones making them a “potential goldmine” for those with nefarious intentions.

He wrote: “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.”

Hoyle warned that mobile phones can be used by hostile states “against us” and added: “Our phones contain so much information: our messages, emails, contacts, photos and social media posts - including private, sensitive, personal, historic and sometimes even deleted data.

“They go almost everywhere with us, and have cameras and sensitive microphones built in, making them a potential goldmine for hostile states (as well as criminals and fraudsters) who wish to obtain sensitive information about parliament and parliamentarians.

“And if hackers have switched on the microphone on one phone, everyone in the room might be overheard.”

The advice drawn up with the NCSC also includes two-step verifications, updating software and limiting the time messages are saved on a device.

Earlier this month security minister Tom Tugendhat set out the growing threat from hostile states to the UK’s national security.

He announced a new taskforce to protect parliament against the “growing threat from hostile states”.

Tugendhat said a “new era of global competition” was dawning, and Britain faced “constant and concerted efforts to undermine our country and our institutions”, which was “not a simple clash of armour but a clash of ideas”.

Hostile states “threaten not just life but our way of life”, he told the Commons.


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