British members of parliament have been warned about the security risks posed by their mobile phones, by the Speaker of the House of Commons.

According to HuffPost UK, House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has warned MPs not to take their mobile phones into sensitive meetings, and he issued them with the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) 10 ‘top tips’ on how British lawmakers can safeguard their phones from a “determined nation state attacker”.

The British parliament has been ramping up its cyber security measures in recent months. In August the UK parliament closed down its TikTok account over concerns that its Chinese parent could be forced to hand over data to Beijing.

Mobile phone risk

In October it was widely reported that the phone of former prime minister Liz Truss had been hacked while she was foreign secretary. It was reported that private messages between Ms Truss and foreign officials, including about the Ukraine war, had fallen into foreign hands.

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

He reportedly said that “recent events” had shown hostile states were trying to “gain insight into, or exert influence over, our democratic processes for their economic, military or political advantage”.

He told MPs any phone equipped with cameras and microphones are a “potential goldmine” for hostile states who are targeting them to influence democracy in the UK.

According to HuffPost UK, the advice to MPs includes not using mobile phones for sensitive conversations or even having them in the room in case they are being listened to.

Surveillance and espionage cyber threats not only stem from state-backed hackers, but criminals and fraudsters as well.

Other security measures MPs were told to take included setting up multi-factor verification, updating software, and limiting the time messages are saved on a device.

Surveillance, espionage

“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,” Speaker Hoyle told MPs in an email seen by HuffPost UK.

“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,” the Speaker reportedly added.

“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,” he was quoted by HuffPost UK as stating.

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

In the email revealed by HuffPost UK, the speaker added: “You may not feel able to do everything on this list, but the more you do, the less likely your personal information and mobile phone will be compromised, or the less damaging the consequences if you are hacked.”

Hostile states

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

Tom Tugendhat was one of the first MPs to warn of the national security implications of a Chinese-owned entity acquiring the UK’s largest chip production facility, Newport Wafer Fab.

According to HuffPost UK Tugendhat said “our democracy is under attack” and that the speaker was “right to warn all MPs”.

“That’s why I’m leading a new taskforce to bring together different groups that can protect our core sovereignty – the right to choose who leads us,” he added.

Hacked phones

Liz Truss is not the only high level politician to reportedly have their mobile phone compromised in some way.

Germany’s former Chancellor Angela Merkel was caught up in data leaks and spying reports nine years ago.

In 2013 Merkel was said to have had her mobile phone hacked by US intelligence agents, according to Edward Snowden and his NSA whistleblowing leaks.

After the revelations, Chancellor Merkel demanded a full explanation from US officials.

That NSA whistleblower report soured Germany’s relationship with the US at the time.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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