On the eve of the UK conservative party’s annual conference, a security breach in the event’s official app revealed the personal data of high-profile attendees, including politicians, activists, and journalists.
For a few hours yesterday (Sept. 29), anyone who downloaded the app was able to log in as a conference attendee, using only their email address, and without a password. Social media users first reported the problem on Twitter, posting photos of themselves logged in as former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and environment secretary Michael Gove. Tory MPs were first alerted of the breach of their data on Twitter.
The breach marks an inauspicious start for this year’s Conservative party conference, where tensions are already running high after prime minister Theresa May signaled last week that she intends to dig her heels in against the European Union in order to produce a deal for Brexit. As Andrew Scott Crines, a professor of politics at the University of Liverpool, writes in The Conversation, this conference is high-stakes for May and could determine her party’s hold on power:
“[A]s the Conservative conference opens, May and her cabinet will need to engage in an authoritative charm offensive. Their objective will be to navigate the conference in a secure and confident manner that shows they are in control and have a clear vision of what needs to be produced and how it will bring about Brexit in such a way that ends the debates over the UK’s relationship with the EU once and for all. The cost of failure will be very high for May, the Conservative Party, and the country.”
But analysts say that the recent security breach, which is dominating headlines, will hurt Tory MPs and party leaders’ credibility. In response to the breach, Jon Trickett, a shadow minister for the Labor party, said: “How can we trust this Tory government with our country’s security when they can’t even build a conference app that keeps the data of their members, MPs and others attending safe?”