Russia hacked ex-British PM Liz Truss's mobile

    Personal phone of Liz Truss was hacked when she was UK's Foreign Secretary, leading to leakage of a year of private messages and international conversations regarding Ukraine War, as per a media report.

    The personal mobile phone of former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss was hacked by Russian agents and state secrets were leaked, as per a report.

    The Mail on Sunday reported that it was learnt during the summer that Truss's phone was hacked and it was hacked to the extent that it had to be locked away at a secret secure government location under lock and key. Truss also had to change her phone number.

    When it was learnt that the phone had been hacked, reported The Mail, the British government led by Boris Johnson at the time imposed a total news blackout.

    Here we explain what The Mail reported, what secrets were allegedly leaked, and how the Britain is reacting to the news.

    What we know of Liz Truss's phone hacking

    The Mail on Sunday reported exclusively that Truss's phone was hacked earlier this year by agents believed to be working for Russia.

    Truss was Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom when the hack was reportedly known. She was at the time campaigning for the post of Conservative Party leadership.

    Johnson and British Cabinet Secretary Simon Case were informed of the hack at once and they immediately swung into action, imposing a news blackout and initiating corrective actions in secret, according to the report.

    The Mail reported: "The hack was discovered during the summer’s Tory leadership campaign, when Ms Truss was Foreign Secretary, but the details were suppressed by Boris Johnson, who was Prime Minister at the time, and the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case.

    "Allies of Ms Truss said she was worried that if news of the hack leaked, it could derail her chance of claiming the Premiership, adding that she ‘had trouble sleeping’ until Mr Case imposed a news blackout."

    What was leaked to Russia?

    A large number of private conversations of Truss with her political allies and plans related to the Ukraine War were leaked to Russia, as per The Mail.

    The Mail reported the following regarding the contents of material leaked from the hacked phone:

    • Private conversations between Truss and her leading political ally Kwasi Kwarteng
    • Sources said that up to a year’s worth of messages were downloaded
    • Highly sensitive discussions with senior international foreign ministers about Ukraine War, including detailed discussions about arms shipments, were leaked

    How is Britain reacting to Truss's hacking?

    The UK has reacted with anger and ridicule, with tabloids mocking Truss with titles such as "Lettuce Liz".

    The Opposition Labour Party has attacked Truss for compromising national security and state secrets.

    Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said, "This is extremely serious – it shows the severity of the threats from countries that would do us harm and why cyber-security needs to be taken so seriously by everyone in Government. We need to know that the Government recognises the gravity of this."

    Independent experts have reiterated dangers of using personal devices for government work. National security journalist Kim Zetter said others also possibly used personal phones for official work.

    "It's interesting to see how many people are making the Liz Truss hacking news about Liz Truss and the Conservative party. Security failures don't favor one party or individual over another. If Truss was using a compromised personal phone for government business, it's possible others were too," said Zetter.

    Security expert Prof. Antony Glees told The Mail he was "gobsmacked" by its report.

    Glees added, "What has happened here is absolutely appalling and is indicative of a Government that was extremely lax when it came to matters of national security. We have Ministers using their private phones to conduct government business over WhatsApp and their personal email, and this has to stop immediately. It is totally irresponsible. It is absolutely terrifying.

    "What is doubly horrifying is Boris Johnson knew this had happened but chose not to communicate it. And I fear that Liz Truss may not be alone in having her phone compromised. The obvious suspects are Russia, China, North Korea and Iran who would have huge interest in knowing what the Foreign Secretary is communicating. The number one suspect, however, would be Russia."

    Not the first time leaders were hacked

    This is not the first time that a world leader's personal device was compromised which compromised national security.

    The most well-known such compromise in recent years has been the usage of personal email and domestic servers for official work by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as the US Secretary of State in the Barack Obama administration. Though the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) cleared Hillary and no charges were brought against her, the BBC reported that FBI found "she and her aides were 'extremely careless' in their handling of classified information".

    As far as the hacking is considered, names of several world leaders surfaced in media reports over the Pegasus spyware.

    The following world leaders were claimed to have had their devices hacked via Pegasus:

    • French President Emmanuel Macron
    • Then Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan
    • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
    • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI
    • Egypt’s PM Mostafa Madbouly
    • Morocco’s PM Saad-Eddine El Othmani

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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