Classified US-UK trade documents were “stolen” from former trade minister Liam Fox’s email account by Russian hackers, according to reports.
The papers, which were leaked ahead of the December General Election last year, were accessed via several hacks on Fox’s account between 12 July and 21 October, according to Reuters.
Several sources declined to name which Russian group or organisation they believed was responsible, but said the attack “bore the hallmarks of a state-backed operation”.
Just weeks ago the UK government announced it had opened a criminal investigation after it emerged Russian groups were responsible for promoting the leaked documents.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said “Russian actors” had sought to interfere in the election “through the online amplification of illicitly acquired and leaked government documents”.
Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations of meddling in foreign elections.
Russia’s foreign ministry last month described Raab’s accusations as “foggy and contradictory”.
The papers allegedly originating from Fox’s email stoked outrage upon publication, after then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used them to back up his claim the NHS would be “on the table” in post-Brexit trade talks with the US.
Fox’s email account was hacked using a so-called spear phishing message, which fools the target into handing over their password and login details, Reuters reported.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “There is an ongoing criminal investigation into how the documents were acquired, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this point.
“But as you would expect, the Government has very robust systems in place to protect the IT systems of officials and staff.”