UK police are investigating a 'spear phishing' sexting scam in which lawmaker admits to sharing colleagues' phone numbers

London – British police have opened an investigation into explicit messages sent to a lawmaker as part of an alleged sexting scam targeting lawmakers, in the latest cybersecurity scare to hit Parliament. Conservative MP William Wragg admitted late Thursday that he sent the personal phone numbers of several colleagues to a man he met on a gay dating app.

Wragg, 36, told The Times he did so under pressure, as the recipient claimed he had compromising material on him.

The Conservative MP, who is stepping down from the upcoming elections, said: “I was worried because I had things in my possession. He gave me a WhatsApp number, and it doesn’t work now.”

He was quoted as saying, “I hurt people because of my weakness. I was afraid. I feel afraid.”

An archive photo taken from a video showing British MP William Wragg (standing), a member of the Conservative Party, addressing the House of Commons.

Reuters


The scam has been described as a “phishing” attack, in which supposedly trustworthy senders steal personal or sensitive information.

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, a senior member of the Cabinet responsible for the country's finances, said the cyber attack allegations against Warragh were a “major cause for concern”.

Jeremy Hunt praised Ragg for offering what he called a “courageous and full apology”, but added that “the lesson here for all MPs is that they need to be very careful about cyber security”, which he said applies to “members of the public like themselves”. Well, because this is something we all have to face in our daily lives.”

China is accused of launching cyber attacks on the United Kingdom

Last month, the UK government summoned China's top envoy in London to complain about a series of cyber attacks, including against MPs, and previous allegations of spying against lawmakers by Beijing.

There was no clear evidence of Chinese involvement in targeting Wragg and his colleagues, which was first reported by Politico this week. But it will once again raise questions about cyber security for MPs and in the UK Parliament as a whole.

According to The Times, two MPs also responded to the initial letter directed at them with candid selfies.

Leicestershire Police in central England said officers were “investigating a report of malicious communications” sent to a local MP last month.

“They were reported to the police on Tuesday, March 19. Investigations are currently ongoing,” a statement said.

The United States accuses Chinese hackers

The revelation of phishing attacks against British lawmakers came less than two weeks after the US Department of Justice Charges announced against seven Chinese nationals Linked to a state-sponsored group, it was accused of targeting US companies, along with political officials, candidates and campaign staff to promote the Chinese government's “economic espionage and foreign intelligence objectives”.

CBS News' Kaya Hubbard reports that the US has charged the seven people with being part of a “group of malicious cyber actors” behind a conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and wire fraud, some of which led to the successful hacking of email and phone accounts. Records.


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“This case serves as a reminder of the goals the Chinese government desires to target and intimidate its critics, including waging malicious cyber operations aimed at threatening the national security of the United States and our allies,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. he said in a statement at the time.

Unlike the phishing attacks described by officials in Britain, which appeared to rely on messages of a sexual nature, the alleged hacking scheme at the heart of the latest prosecutions in the United States centered around emails sent to people and companies that appeared to be from the news. outlets or journalists, but contain hidden phishing links that would send the information back to a server controlled by the alleged hackers.

Staff at the White House and federal agencies, members of Congress from both political parties, and in some cases their spouses, were among those targeted, officials said.

Deputy District Attorney Lisa Monaco He said in a statement The scheme included “more than 10,000 malicious emails, affecting thousands of victims, across multiple continents.”

“As alleged in today's indictment, this prolific global hacking operation Supported by the Government of the People's Republic of China It targeted journalists, political officials, and companies to suppress critics of the Chinese regime, endanger government institutions, and steal trade secrets.

The Justice Department clarified, however, that the US indictment “does not allege that the hacking furthered any Chinese government influence operations against the United States,” Hubbard said, which is consistent with an official 2021 report that concluded some information was collected by private actors. Chinese, and was not used in influence operations.

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