As part of her job, she’ll have responsibility for improving cyber-security in the UK – but has been previously accused of failing to keep her constituents private data “confidential and secure”
Tory Nadine Dorries has been put in charge of beefing up Britain’s cyber security despite admitting to sharing her computer password with staff and interns in her office.
Boris Johnson ’s decision to name Ms Dorries Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in this week’s reshuffle was a surprise to many – who may know her best as a contestant on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.
The bestselling author, 64, has also been under fire over a string of right-wing tweets and comments about race, culture, media and gay rights – which, to her critics, are highly offensive.
In 2013, she prompted accusations of racism when saying ex-MP Chuka Umunna looked like boxer Chris Eubank.
She’s complained that “left-wing snowflakes are killing comedy”.
And she provoked fury by retweeting comments made by far-right extremist Tommy Robinson.
As part of her job, she’ll have responsibility for improving cyber-security in the UK – but has been previously accused of failing to keep her constituents private data “confidential and secure.”
In 2017, she admitted “all my staff” had the password for her private Commons computer.
“My staff log onto my computer on my desk with my login everyday,” she said. “Including interns on exchange programmes.”
She made the admission in a bid to defend Theresa May ’s former deputy, Damian Green, who had been accused of watching pornography on his Commons computer.
Mr Green denied the allegations.
But Ms Dorries intervened in the debate, insisting the “claim that the computer on Greens desk was accessed and therefore it was Green is utterly preposterous!!”
Ms Dorries admission came just months after Parliament had suffered a major cyberattack, with hackers trying to gain access to MPs email accounts.
The attack was blamed on Iran.
Commons data protection rules clearly state MPs should not share their passwords, even with staff members.
Her comments sparked alarm from readers and internet security experts.
Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group, said at the time: “On the face of it, Nadine Dorries is admitting to breaching basic data protection laws, making sure her constituents’ emails and correspondence is kept confidential and secure. She should not be sharing her log-in with interns.”
And it prompted the Information Commissioner’s Office to remind MPs of their obligations to keep data confidential.
They wrote: “We’re aware of reports that MPs share logins and passwords and are making enquiries of the relevant parliamentary authorities.
“In the meantime, we would remind MPs and others of their obligations under the Data Protection Act to keep personal data secure”.
But Ms Dorries – then a backbencher – said she was “flattered” that people thought she had access to sensitive files.
“Flattered by number of people on here who think I’m part of the Government and have access to government docs,” she wrote.
“I’m a back bench MP – two Westminster based computers in a shared office.
“On my computer, there is a shared email account. That’s it. Nothing else. Sorry to disappoint!”
Hannah Hart, Digital Privacy Expert at ProPrivacy said: “Nadine Dorries appointment to digital secretary of state is a worrying one given her apparent lack of digital credentials. We only have to look back to 2017 when she revealed she shared login details amongst her staff – a fact that called her attitude to security into question four years before she’d even step into the role vacated by Oliver Dowden.
“It is even more alarming when you weigh her seemingly lack of digital knowledge against the fact that the UK is facing an increasing amount of high-profile cybersecurity attacks.”
Making her first Commons appearance in her new job today, Ms Dorries faced a string of concerns from MPs about her voting record.
The SNP’s culture spokesman John Nicolson joked it was “just as well there are no homosexuals in the arts sector” as he made reference to the issue when welcoming Ms Dorries to her new post.
Mr Nicolson told MPs: “I’ve been glancing at her oeuvre.
“Now is perhaps not the time to discuss the alarming dumbing down in panto which she identified in this once highbrow artform, or indeed to ponder her long anti-gay rights voting record.
“Just as well there are no homosexuals in the arts sector.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace defended Ms Dorries appointment.
He told Sky News: “I think Nadine Dorries is actually a best-selling author, if that isn’t part of culture…
“She’s sold thousands and thousands of books and now if that isn’t part of culture, media and sport I don’t know.
“What’s great about Nadine Dorries is she produces culture that people buy and actually want to see rather than some of the more crackpot schemes we’ve seen being funded in the past by taxpayers’ money.”
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