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Gmail "more secure" than parliamentary email, says MP

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat claims he's been the victim of multiple cyber attacks from foreign nations

British MP Tom Tugendhat has claimed that GCHQ advised him that Gmail is safer to use than the UK government's Parliamentary email system.

The Conservative MP was talking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and mentioned the cyber attacks he faces from foreign nations.

“Last week, emails were sent around claiming to be from me, claiming that I’d resigned from the Foreign Affairs Committee, which of course I haven’t,” said Tugendhat. “Many other cyber attacks have been perpetrated either on me or on others, attacks of impersonation, attempts to enter accounts and various other things.”

He claimed that the attacks have been going on for two or three years and are from nations like China and Iran, as well as two others “that I won’t name as I can’t be certain”.

Later on in the interview, he said that GCHQ had privately advised him, in an informal manner, that he would be better off using Gmail rather than the Parliamentary system as it was "more secure".

“Frankly, that tells you the level of security and the priority we’re giving to democracy in the United Kingdom,” said Tugendhat.

When asked about Tugendhat's comment, a Parliamentary spokesperson told IT Pro: "We have robust cyber security measures in place and work closely with partners in the National Cyber Security Centre [NCSC]. In line with guidance from the NCSC we would always encourage MPs to use parliamentary emails which offers significantly higher levels of security than external providers"

Moreover, a spokesperson for the NCSC told IT Pro that it works closely with the Parliamentary Digital Service who makes use of the NCSC's cyber security guidance, support and Active Cyber Defence services.

"The Parliamentary email system follows NCSC best practice, including the use of two-factor authentication (2FA), and MPs should continue to use it," said the spokesperson. "We have worked with political parties, local authorities and individuals for several years on how to protect and defend against cyber attacks - including issuing tailored advice directly and on our website.”

In the past, Tugendhat has mentioned numerous times on Twitter that Gmail accounts have been impersonating him, even getting Google to remove the fake accounts. 

IT Pro has contacted Tugendhat for clarification of these comments. 

Back in 2016, Hillary Clinton was involved in a scandal as she ran her own private server to send and receive emails, using it both for work and personal messages. Clinton claimed this was done for reasons of convenience, although it also gave her control over what messages she handed to the government, either for its own investigations or for freedom of information requests.

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