Russian hackers stole UK-US trade documents from Liam Fox's email account

Russian hackers are suspected of breaking into former Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s email account to steal classified UK-US trade documents, it has been reported.

The papers were then leaked in the run-up to the 2019 General Election, with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stating that they demonstrated how the Tories were preparing to sell the NHS to US pharmaceutical companies.

Two anonymous sources have now told Reuters that hackers accessed Fox’s account multiple times between July 12 and October 21 2019. The account is believed to have been the victim of a ‘spear phishing’ message, which tricks users into handing over their log-in details.

A criminal investigation is already being led by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), while the Cabinet Office defended the government’s IT systems.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: ‘There is an ongoing criminal investigation into how the documents were acquired, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this point.

‘But as you would expect, the government has very robust systems in place to protect the IT systems of officials and staff.’

An NCSC spokesperson also said they had been working with political parties on how to ‘protect and defend against cyber attacks’ for several years.

They added: ‘There is an ongoing criminal investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’

Last month, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted for the first time that it was ‘almost certain that Russian actors sought to interfere in the 2019 General Election’.

In a statement, he said the hackers had sought to spread the ‘illegally obtained, leaked government documents’ online in a bid to influence the vote.

He went on: ‘Whilst there is no evidence of a broad spectrum Russian campaign against the General Election, any attempt to interfere in our democratic processes is completely unacceptable.

‘It is, and will always be, an absolute priority to protect our democracy and elections. There is an ongoing criminal investigation and it would be inappropriate for us to say anything further at this point.

‘The government reserves the right to respond with appropriate measures in the future.’

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