The British government downplayed claims of a security risk after it was reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cell phone number had been openly available on the internet for 15 years.
LONDON – The British government downplayed allegations on Friday of a security risk after it was reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cell phone number had been openly available on the internet for 15 years.
Celebrity website Popbitch revealed that the number was in a press release from a 2006 think tank, when Johnson was an opposition lawmaker and a Conservative Party spokesman for higher education.
People who called the number on Friday heard an automatic message saying the phone was “off” and asking them to try later or send a text message.
The government denied that there was a security lapse. Interior Minister Victoria Atkins insisted that the Prime Minister “knows his responsibilities when it comes to national security”. and she criticized the media for revealing the fact that the number was in the public domain.
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said that “as far as I know, all security protocols have been followed”.
“Part of what makes the Prime Minister special is that he is an incredibly accessible individual,” said Sunak.
But former National Security adviser Peter Ricketts said that if the number were widely available, it could be used for spying by hostile nations “and possibly other non-state actors as well, such as sophisticated criminal gangs.”
Johnson is already facing doubts about his exchanges of text messages and WhatsApp with business leaders and lobbyists.
He denied doing anything wrong when he texted industrialist James Dyson last year and promised to “fix” the tax rules for Dyson if he agreed to make fans for the National Health Service.