The UK government has been urged to launch an investigation following reports that Liz Truss’s phone was hacked by spies working for the Russian government.
The alleged breach was discovered when then-foreign secretary Ms Truss was running for the Tory leadership in the summer, but details were suppressed by then-prime minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, the The Mail on Sunday reported.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said on Sunday that the government takes security issues “incredibly seriously”.
“I think all of us have to be sensitive, particularly those of us in government, to the fact that the more that we talk in detail about these things, the more that we risk giving information to people who wish this country and its citizens harm,” Mr Gove said.
“We do take security issues incredibly seriously. That's why, again, I have to be cautious in responding to the point that you understandably made about Liz's phone.”
Spies gained access to sensitive information, including discussions about the Ukraine war with foreign officials, The Mail on Sunday reported citing unnamed sources.
It also claimed details of private conversations between Ms Truss and former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng criticising Mr Johnson fell into the hackers’ hands, leaving them at risk of blackmail.
Opposition parties are demanding an investigation into the alleged attack, which will raise questions about the UK’s cyber security, as well as the judgment of Mr Johnson and Mr Case.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “Clearly these are very serious allegations.
“It raises issues around cyber security, it's why cyber security has to be taken so seriously by everyone across government, the role of hostile states, but also the allegations about whether a Cabinet minister has been using a personal phone for serious government business, and serious questions about why this information or this story has been leaked or briefed right now.”
She added: “It is essential that all of these security issues are investigated and addressed at the very highest level and we need to know that the government recognises the gravity of this and the importance of fully protecting our national security.”
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran said: “We need an urgent independent investigation to uncover the truth. Was Liz Truss’s phone hacked by Russia, was there a news blackout and if so why?
“If it turns out this information was withheld from the public to protect Liz Truss’s leadership bid, that would be unforgivable.”
A UK government representative said: “We do not comment on individuals’ security arrangements.
“The government has robust systems in place to protect against cyber threats. That includes regular security briefings for ministers, and advice on protecting their personal data and mitigating cyber threats.”