Former prime minister Gordon Brown may have had his personal emails hacked by private investigators hired by national newspapers, as the fallout from the News International phone hacking scandal continues.
A report in The Independent on Monday revealed that the Metropolitan Police's Operation Tuleta team is looking at evidence from about 20 computers and that potentially hundreds of victims may have had their emails hacked.
It is believed that Brown and former lobbyist and New Labour spin doctor Derek Draper may have been targeted by certain newspapers looking for dirt on Brown's stormy relationship with former prime minister Tony Blair.
The period being investigated by the police falls during Brown's stint as chancellor.
Draper's emails have been leaked before. In 2008, a series of messages between himself and New Labour grandee Peter Mandelson were revealed in the press and in 2009 a flurry of emails between Draper and Brown's head of staff Damian McBride planning a smear campaign on David Cameron were published.
A 52-year-old man was arrested in November last year in connection with the email hacking investigation on suspicion of offences under the Computer Misuse Act.
The news once again highlights the security risks presented by the use of unencrypted emails by senior government ministers and those in the public eye, according to Paul Hennin, director of EMEA marketing at security vendor Proofpoint.
"This situation does highlight that people can develop a false sense of security when they are mixing business and personal communications," he told V3.
"This is increasingly common as people use their own devices for work, and can lead to compromises of all the networks the user accesses - both privately and for business. Anyone in the public eye should be using automated encryption for their email to ensure their privacy."
In December last year data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office was forced to issue new guidance warning that personal email accounts used to discuss official government business are still subject to the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.
The warning came after it emerged that education secretary Michael Gove had been using his Gmail account for government business, a tactic that meant that official emails were hidden from staff trying to respond to an FoI request but which could also have put them at risk from hackers.
Even government-grade email communications have been found wanting, however.
In October, former home secretary David Blunkett explained how a conversation with former French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy revealed that the French had been intercepting unencrypted emails sent by the Home Office to the British ambassador in Paris.
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