Security experts warn Boris Johnson is at risk of hacking by Russia or China after revelation that PM’s mobile number has been freely available online for 15 YEARS – amid claims he defied advice to change it
- Gossip newsletter Popbitch gave readers clues to Boris Johnson’s phone number
- It emerged the PM’s phone number has been available online for over 15 years
- He previously rejected request from Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to change it
Fears were raised today that Boris Johnson is at risk of hacking by Russia or China after the revelation that his mobile number has been freely available online for 15 years.
Former UK national security adviser Lord Ricketts is among those warning of the threat from ‘hostile states’ after the PM’s personal number was highlighted by a popular gossip site.
Downing Street refused to say whether Mr Johnson will now be changing the number. There were claims earlier this month that Cabinet Secretary Simon Case had advised him to switch following concerns over the ease with which lobbyists and others from the business world were able to contact him.
Former UK national security adviser Lord Ricketts said Mr Johnson needs to be more ‘digitally secure’ – saying there was an ‘increased risk’ of potential action by hostile states or criminal gangs if a phone number is widely available.
The number, which the PM hasn’t changed in the 15 years since, is available on the internet
‘I know that modern systems like WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted – nonetheless, I think one would be worried if a hostile state who had sophisticated capabilities, had the mobile phone number itself,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘That must increase the risk that they’re able to eavesdrop on some at least of the communications that are going on, and possibly other non-state actors as well, like sophisticated criminal gangs.
‘So, there is no way of knowing whether that’s true, but there must at least be an increased risk if the number is widely available.’
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins tried to play down the issue, criticising the media for highlighting the number’s availability.
‘The Prime Minister, more than anyone, knows his responsibilities when it comes to national security,’ she told Times Radio Breakfast.
‘I’m slightly surprised that a national broadcaster felt it appropriate to advertise the fact that that mobile phone is on the internet, if indeed it is.’
Popular gossip newsletter Popbitch gave its readers clues on how to find the Prime Minister’s number, pointing them to a press release from his time as MP for Henley in 2006.
The number, which the PM hasn’t changed in the 15 years since, is written on the bottom of the press release.
Mr Case is said to have raised the issue with the PM last year, telling him he was being asked for help by MPs, lobbyists and others in the business world so often because his number was too widely known.
Attempts to call the number have been met with an automated message saying the phone was ‘switched off’ and an invitation to ‘please try later or send a text’.
Popular gossip newsletter Popb**** gave its readers clues on how to find the Prime Minister’s number
On website Phonefinder, under an entry for the PM’s supposed number, dozens of users poked fun at the revelation.
One, using the username Dominic Cummings joked they received a call from the PM’s phone and were told his famous hair ‘is fake’.
Another referenced the scandal over the Prime Minister’s flat renovations, joking the called ‘sl**** off my John Lewis furniture’.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case is said to have raised the issue of the PM’s number with him
Others took aim at Brexit while one user posed as Keir Starmer to slam Mr Johnson for not answering questions.
It is the latest headache for the PM, who came under fire for the ‘Wallpapergate’ row, as well as ‘sleaze’ claims over text messages he sent to billionaire Sir James Dyson and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Last week, Boris Johnson mounted a furious defence as he came under fire over the leaked private texts in which he promised Sir James he would ‘fix’ a tax rule so the tycoon’s staff could help make ventilators for the NHS.
Sir James wrote an official letter to the Treasury asking for the tax status of his staff to remain the same if they moved from Singapore to the UK to produce vital ventilators during the pandemic.
But in a private text seen by the BBC, Mr Johnson told Sir James that he ‘will fix it’ himself.
He then added ‘Rishi says it is fixed!! We need you here’.
Just two weeks later, Rishi Sunak told MPs that those coming into the UK to offer help during the pandemic would not see a change in their tax status.
It was the latest in a string of cronyism and lobbying questions facing the Conservative Party, after accusations that David Cameron used his influence and contacts to lobby ministers and officials behalf of his financier boss Lex Greensill.
Text exchange between Boris Johnson and Sir James Dyson over the tax status of his employees
Dyson: ‘We are ready. But nobody seems to want us to proceed. Sadly, James’
Johnson: ‘I will fix it tomo! We need you. It looks fantastic’
Johnson: ‘Rishi says it is fixed!! We need you here’
Dyson: ‘Thanks! I will give the ventilator our all. James’
Dyson: ‘Dear Boris, I’m afraid that we need a response to our letter below from Rishi please? We really need Rishi to answer the letter we sent (attached) – now. Or to make the position clear. Rishi has fixed the Country Day Count issue but not Work Days. The former is now covered under an ‘Exceptional Circumstances’ umbrella, Work Days are not. So, he has freed up your ability to be in the UK but not to work there – even in support of this National emergency.’
Johnson: ‘James I am first lord of the treasury and you can take it that we are backing you to do what you need.’
Just two weeks later, Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs that those coming into the UK to offer help during the pandemic would not see a change in their tax status.
This included texting Mr Sunak in an unsuccessful effort to secure coronavirus loans.
Hitting back at the BBC’s report, Sir James wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘There were myriad questions, from the technical to medical and compliance.
‘It was in this context that we wrote formally to the Chancellor on March 15 for clarification on how UK tax rules would apply during this period of unprecedented upheaval. Far from concealing the text exchanges, we shared them explicitly with officials at the Treasury and No10 via email on March 28.’
A BBC spokesman said: ‘The BBC has led the way on reporting a significant story which is clearly in the public interest. Sir James Dyson has informed us he is not a prominent Conservative supporter.’
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer today trolled Boris Johnson by sampling wallpaper at John Lewis as he gently fanned the flames of the Downing Street flat row.
The Labour leader was seen picking out wallpaper at the department store’s Manchester site, in a subtle dig at his Conservative adversary.
It comes as an incensed Mr Johnson furiously defended himself at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions over the ‘Wallpapergate’ row – in which he is accused of using £58,000 of Tory funds for a lavish refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
Yesterday a clearly rattled Mr Johnson used Downing Street to insist he paid for the renovations himself and had abided by the ministerial code.
His animated Commons performance sparked an explosion of memes on Twitter, as people poked fun at the politician’s visible fury.
And today, Sir Keir, slightly late to the party, decided to have a go at a humorous take on the row.
It has been claimed that Mr Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds labelled the Downing Street flat – which he inherited from Prime Ministerial predecessor Theresa May- a ‘John Lewis nightmare’.
And Sir Keir made a subtle dig at the claims by browsing wallpaper at John Lewis at at the Intu Trafford Centre in Manchester.
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