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MPs and staffers sent explicit photos in WhatsApp ‘phishing’ attacks | Politics | News

MPs, staffers and journalists working in Parliament have been sent explicit photos in suspected “phishing” attacks, according to reports.

A Labour MP, four staffers and a political journalist received unsolicited WhatsApp messages from two mobile numbers between October 2023 and February this year.

Dominik Wojtczak, head of the Cybersecurity Institute at the University of Liverpool, said he believed the messages were part of a “phishing” attack aimed at gathering compromising information on a victim.

He told Politico: “The purpose is most likely to simply obtain indecent images of the victims and then blackmail them.”

The messages start with the sender claiming to have met the recipient at a recent political event or venue.

In three cases the sender said they and the recipient “had a little flirt”, while in another three they sent explicit images.

A Labour Party staffer was contacted by “Charlotte” who claimed they had met at the party conference.

He was sent explicit photos and reciprocated, but later became suspicious about her identity.

He said: “It was very convincing, there was so much specific information and the way they were texting was just so believable for a woman in their 20s.

“I’ve been pretty shook up, anxious and worried about what could happen, and just embarrassed that I fell for it.

“This sounds so obvious now, but don’t send pictures to someone you don’t know and trust — particularly if you’re in a politically-exposed position, like working for an MP. If the conversation escalates to sexting quickly, that’s definitely a red flag.”

Ciaran Martin, the former chief executive of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said: “Malicious actors, including nation states, have a history of using digital messaging to try to cultivate relationships with people they think have political influence. Some of this activity is high quality and convincing. Some of it can be spotted a mile away.

“The key message is that anyone working in Westminster can expect stuff like this … trust your own instincts, don’t respond, and report it if you’re concerned.”

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