Brexit papers leaked during election campaign believed to have been hacked from Tory MP’s email account

Former international trade Secretary Liam Fox at the Bloomberg building in London; Jonathan Brady

Former international trade Secretary Liam Fox at the Bloomberg building in London; Jonathan Brady - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Classified Brexit documents released ahead of the 2019 general election are believed to have been stolen from a Tory MP's email account.

Two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation said hackers sabotaged Liam Fox's email account to extract the papers which were published in the public domain and snapped up by Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour figures during the election campaign.

The sources, who spoke on anonymity because an investigation was still on going, said hackers accessed Fox's account multiple times during July 12 and October 21 last year.

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They said the account was hacked using a so-called 'spear phishing' message, tricking the minister into handing over his password and login details.

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It is not clear if the hackers who stole the papers also released them online, where they were then used by Corbyn to discredit Tory claims the NHS was not part of negotiations.

The sources also said the hack had all the hallmarks of a state-backed operation.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Reuters, who broke the story.

The leaked papers detailed British trade negotiations with the United States and were first reported last year as part of a wider Russian disinformation campaign.

Foreign minister Dominic Raab confirmed that report last month, saying that 'Russian actors' had sought to interfere in the election 'through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents'.

It is not clear which of Fox's accounts were hacked and whether it occurred while he was a cabinet member.

A spokesmen for Fox repeatedly declined to comment on details of the findings.

This hack is the most direct example of suspected Russian attempts to interfere in British politics.

Moscow has strenuously denied claims it interfered in elections in Britain, France and the US and its foreign ministry labelled Raab's accusations as 'foggy and contradictory'.

In a report into Russian meddling in British institutions released last month, MPs said Moscow's interference in UK politics had become 'the new normal'.

It said many MPs and House of Lords peers received donations from, or were involved with, Russian businessmen.

It also blasted the government over failures to investigate possible meddling in the 2016 Brexit referendum after it found evidence of tampering of the 2014 Scottish independence vote.

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