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By Emily Mae Czachor
/ CBS News
Political leaders in the United Kingdom have called for an investigation into the government’s handling of national security, after an unconfirmed report claiming that a personal phone used by former Prime Minister Liz Truss was targeted by suspected Russian hackers.
The Mail on Sunday report, which cited unnamed sources, suggested that private messages exchanged between Truss and foreign officials while she was foreign secretary — some apparently involving sensitive information about the war in Ukraine, and personal communication with former Treasury chief Kwasi Kwarteng — were breached in the supposed cyberattack.
It also claimed that U.K. government officials learned of the breach over the summer and suggested that former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who preceded Truss, and cabinet secretary Simon Case intentionally hid it from the media amid Truss’ campaign to become the conservative party leader and prime minister. Truss, who was ultimately appointed by Queen Elizabeth II to succeed Johnson, announced her resignation earlier this month after just six weeks in office.
A U.K. government spokesperson declined to “comment on individuals’ security arrangements” in a statement to CBS News.
“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,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Michael Gove, who was recently reappointed to his government position as Levelling Up secretary, shared a similar response to questions about the alleged hack during an interview with Sky News on Sunday.
“I don’t know the full details of what security breach, if any, took place,” Gove said. “What I do know is that the government has very robust protocols in place in order to make sure that individuals are protected, but also that government security and national security are protected as well.”
However, Labour party leaders have demanded a probe into the potential cybersecurity breach, with Yvette Cooper, the party’s law-and-order spokesperson, suggesting that the Mail on Sunday’s report raises broader concerns about the British government and national security.
“Clearly these are very serious allegations,” Cooper said later on Sky News. “It raises issues around cybersecurity. It’s why cybersecurity has to be taken so seriously by everyone across governments, the role of hostile states, but also the allegations about whether a cabinet minister has been using a personal phone for serious government business, and serious questions about why this information or this story has been leaked or briefed right now.”
Cooper suggested that each of those issues points to “the way in which the government is not taking seriously enough national security.”
We need an urgent independent investigation to uncover the truth. Was Liz Truss’ phone hacked by the Kremlin, was there a news blackout and if so why?
If this was withheld from the public to protect Liz Truss’ leadership bid, that would be unforgivable.https://t.co/enbPJ7ABqi
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesperson, responded to reports of the alleged cyberattack on social media.
“We need an urgent independent investigation to uncover the truth. Was Liz Truss’ phone hacked by the Kremlin, was there a news blackout and if so why?” Moran tweeted. “If this was withheld from the public to protect Liz Truss’ leadership bid, that would be unforgivable.”
The foreign affairs spokesperson doubled down on her calls for a probe in a second tweet posted Sunday. “These allegations are extremely concerning and raise serious questions about a laxity at the heart of govt around using personal devices,” she wrote, adding, “We need an urgent investigation to uncover the truth.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
First published on October 30, 2022 / 2:57 PM
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