WhatsApp tips to social media monitoring: The online security advice given to MPs

William Wragg’s “spear-phishing” scandal raises new questions on whether MPs need more education on online attacks and safety. Here’s the advice and assistance they currently receive.

MP safety has long been a concern in Westminster but the issue is back under the spotlight after conservative MP William Wragg was this week caught up in a “phishing” scandal.

The parliament security team insist it takes online safety and security extremely seriously, but MPs are facing cyber attacks that have become more sophisticated in recent years.

They often take place via newer forms of communication, such as WhatsApp, which are harder for security services to monitor than email.

How are MPs’ communications and devices monitored?

Parliament ultimately has limited oversight on the use of WhatsApp on MPs’ personal digital devices, which complicates matters.

Members of parliament and their staff can opt to use a cyber security advisory service to help them lock down their personal devices and accounts.

Another opt-in service is from the parliamentary social media monitoring team, which can track MPs’ Twitter and Facebook profiles for serious threats.

For those especially concerned with hacks and phishing attacks, parliament’s personal cyber advice service offers “hands on” guidance and invites MPs to bring phones, tablets and laptops in for a security check.

What training are people in parliament given?

MPs are given a “top tips” booklet, written with input from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), with further advice sent in hard copy to all MP offices.

They’re also given tailored security advice to help protect against phishing attacks, which tend to be broad attempts to get people to share sensitive information.

Spear-phishing is a more bespoke approach, which sees cyber-fraudsters target an individual in a highly-personalised way, with the hope they’ll share something fairly compromising.

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