Westminster at night
Image: Oedro Carballo via Unsplash

British police investigating ‘honey trap’ WhatsApp messages sent to MPs

Police in the United Kingdom are investigating messages sent as part of a reported “honey trap” exercise targeting politicians, officials and journalists working in Westminster.

It follows a Politico report uncovering how WhatsApp accounts were contacting targets with suggestive and tailored messages that developed into sexually explicit conversations for the apparent sake of acquiring compromising photographs.

There is no evidence to suggest who is behind the activity, although concerns about state espionage are high in Britain in the wake of a government warning about China’s “malicious cyber targeting” of democratic institutions. There is no suggestion the WhatsApp activity is tied to the alleged Chinese targeting.

According to Politico, the messages share clear similarities, including an initial claim to have met the recipient at a political venue, displaying “extensive knowledge of their target and their movements within the narrow world of Westminster politics,” before expressing “faux-embarrassment at not being remembered by their target.”

After claiming that they and the target “had a little flirt,” the sender often turned the conversation sexual and sent explicit images purporting to be of themselves.

William Wragg, a senior Conservative MP, confessed to The Times newspaper that he shared the personal phone numbers of several colleagues to a man he met on the gay dating app Grindr.

Wragg told the newspaper: “They had compromising things on me. They wouldn’t leave me alone. They would ask for people. I gave them some numbers, not all of them. I told him to stop. He’s manipulated me and now I’ve hurt other people.”

A spokesperson for Leicestershire Police said the force was “investigating a report of malicious communications after a number of unsolicited messages were sent to a Leicestershire MP last month.”

The unsolicited messages sent to the unidentified MP were reported to police on March 19, before the Politico story was published, according to the Leicestershire Police spokesperson.

Alongside the police, Parliament's security department is investigating the messages. Those who have potentially been impacted have been encouraged to come forward for their own protection against blackmail.

“Parliament takes security extremely seriously and works closely with government in response to such incidents,” said a parliamentary spokesperson. “We provide members and staff with tailored advice, making them aware of security risks and how to manage their digital safety.”

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin

is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.