SNP MP Stewart McDonald says he was hacked last month and his email system compromised, with suspicion pointed at Russia
A British parliamentarian has admitted that his personal email account has been successfully hacked, amid “continuous” hacking attempts on his parliamentary account.
Stewart McDonald, the SNP Member Parliament for Glasgow South and a former defence and security spokesperson said on Twitter on Wednesday that he wanted to speak out publicly about the “highly sophisticated” hack in order to warn others about the attackers’ tactics.
It comes after the UK’s cyber guardian, GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) last month issued a warning that the UK is being targeted by Russian and Iranian state-linked hackers.
The NCSC at the time highlighted the ongoing threat from spear-phishing attacks by Russia-based group SEABORGIUM and Iran-based group TA453.
Spear-phishing involves an attacker sending malicious links, for example via email, to specific targets in order to try to induce them to share sensitive information.
It said the attacks were not aimed at the general public but were targetting specified UK sectors, including academia, defence, government organisations, NGOs, think-tanks, as well as politicians, journalists and activists.
Now the Scottish politician Stewart McDonald has confirmed that his personal email system was compromised after he clicked on a document and entered his password.
In January, McDonald opened an email that appeared to be from a member of his staff and accessed a password protected document said to be a military update about Ukraine, he told the BBC.
He later found out that the member of staff had not sent the email.
The group responsible are believed to be linked to Russia’s intelligence services.
“Over the past couple of weeks I have been dealing with a sophisticated and targeted spear phishing hack of my personal email account, and the personal email account belonging to one of my staff,” he tweeted. “These hacks are a criminal offence.”
Over the past couple of weeks I have been dealing with a sophisticated and targeted spear phishing hack of my personal email account, and the personal email account belonging to one of my staff. These hacks are a criminal offence.https://t.co/VQkLMJTsio
— Stewart McDonald MP (@StewartMcDonald) February 8, 2023
“Although attempts to hack my parliamentary account are continuous – as is the case for all MPs – these have not been successful,” he added. “I want to assure constituents that their information is secure. My private account is not used for constituency or parliamentary business.”
And the UK’s NCSC has been providing support on the matter.
“I’m enormously grateful to officials in parliament and @NCSC for their help: they’ve been entirely professional public servants throughout and I want to thank them for everything they have done for me and my staff,” McDonald wrote.
Both Russia and Iran continue to find themselves isolated internationally, because of their hostile domestic and foreign activities.
Earlier in January the Russian government said it plans to introduce a law that could ban certain professionals from working remotely outside the country, in a move to force the return of some professionals who have gone abroad.
Many Russians fled the country after its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on 24 February of last year, and up to 700,000 citizens also left the country after a broader military mobilisation last September.
The Russian government estimates about 100,000 IT professionals currently work for Russian firms from outside the country.