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Former Northern Ireland secretary's computer 'may be hacked by NI'

A report in the Guardian says detectives working for News International may have hacked the computers of Peter Hain and his staff.

Peter Hain has been told his computer may have been hacked while he was Northern Ireland secretary - dealing with matters such as IRA decommissioning.
Peter Hain has been told his computer may have been hacked while he was Northern Ireland secretary - dealing with matters such as IRA decommissioning.
Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT’S former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain has been told by police that his computer, and those of senior civil servants in Northern Ireland, may have been hacked by detectives working for News International.

The Guardian reports that the minister’s email and documents may have been compromised by the tactics, which would be the latest indication that the actions of agents working for Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper publisher extend beyond hacking mobile phone voicemail.

Hain served as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 2005 and 2007, at a time which coincided with the end of the Provisional IRA’s armed campaign and decommissioning, and other sensitive peace negotiations.

The Guardian’s report said Hain was likely to be shown material which may have emerged from hacking on his computer, and be asked to vouch that it could only have been obtained by such unsolicited means.

Aside from being a further indication that News International used tactics other than phone-hacking in order to breach the privacy of high-profile individuals, the story would further indicate that the publisher had sanctioned such tactics for use on members of the Government.

The hacking would have been engineered by sending the target an email including a ‘Trojan horse’ attachment, which would then activate a program recording input such as keystrokes.

This could then be used to ascertain a person’s email username and password, and therefore allow other parties to use this data themselves.

The Guardian’s report comes on the day the UK’s Leveson Inquiry into media ethics hears its first public submissions from high-profile journalists who have been involved either in furthering, or exposing, unethical practices in the press.

Among those giving evidence are Nick Davies, a Guardian journalist who uncovered examples of hacking, former News of the World writer Paul McMullan, and former Daily Star writer Richard Peppiatt – who famously quit the paper admitting that he had simply made up some stories while working there.

In full: TheJournal.ie‘s coverage of the Leveson Inquiry >

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Gavan Reilly

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