Liam Fox emails hacked by Russians

Cyber criminals have raided the email account of former cabinet minister Liam Fox, with top secret trade files stolen, according to a report on Reuters

by Patrick Sullivan, Political Editor on 3 August 2020 16:03


Russian cyber hackers stole secret trade deal papers from the email account of former cabinet minister Liam Fox, according to Reuters. The news agency said Mr Fox's account was broken into multiple times between 12 July and 2 October 2019 - in the run up to last year's general election.

It said a "spear phishing" message was used, which tricks the target into handing over their password and login details. Quoting unnamed sources, Reuters reported officials did not say which group was responsible but did insist the attack "bore the hallmarks of a state-backed operation".

The agency added it was unclear which of Mr Fox's email accounts was breached, and if the key briefings were stolen before he stood down as international trade secretary on 24 July. Advertisement Just weeks ago the UK government announced it had found Russian groups were responsible for promoting the leaked documents and that a criminal investigation had been opened. The papers were posted online by an anonymous internet user ahead of December's election - but became a major debating point when they were publicised by then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

Cyber expert Tim Sadler, Tessian CEO told The Commentator: "It shows just how destructive a spear phishing email can be. Attackers reportedly tricked Mr Fox into sharing his account login details so that they could access his account, multiple times over the space of many months, in order to steal politically sensitive and classified documents.

Sadler continued, "Spear phishing is fast becoming a lucrative and attractive method of attack for cybercriminals. It's not surprising; it's relatively simple to do, highly effective and has a high ROI, especially when the target is a high-profile individual. What's more, targets of spear phishing and social engineering scams like this often do not even realise they've been tricked or have done anything wrong until it's too late.

"Ahead of the US election, today's news will act as a warning for security teams in government organisations to ensure they have addressed any concerns over email security and put measures in place to detect advanced impersonation scams and protect their staff."

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