British MP and former home secretary David Blunkett revealed on Wednesday that the French were, for a time, monitoring the emails of the UK government.
Speaking at the McAfee Focus event in London, Blunkett told delegates that a conversation between the former home secretary and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy -- then interior minister -- at the time where talks were underway to negotiate the moving of Sangatte refugees from France to the British mainland in 2002.(Image source: Flickr)
"We were negotiating how many refugees the UK would accept", Blunkett said, adding: "Sarkozy told me he already knew my 'bottom line'. He then told me it might be wise to encrypt the emails we send to our embassy in Paris".
"They were tapping us", he said.
He went on to add that governments continue to struggle with cyber-security, with particular focus to a number of occasions top secret or classified documents were left on trains, or in other public spaces by mistake.
The UK government since introduced the GSi ('Government Secure intranet'), which bypasses the mainstream web by using secured peer-to-peer networks to send and receive low-level marked documents.
To further secure documents on a 'human level', the UK's government 'protective marking scheme' was aligned with the United States, the UK's closest ally, after the previous system caused a miscommunication that led to the release of sensitive materials.
A number of intelligence foul-ups and document mismanagement has left the UK government red-faced in recent times.
In 2008, highly classified documents were left on a Surrey-bound train pertaining to the UK government's Joint Intelligence Committee, where the highest level of security clearance is required. The documents were found by a member of the public, and handed to the BBC. A senior civil servant was subsequently suspended.
Former counter-terrorism chief, Bob Quick, forced an MI5 operation to be brought forward, after holding documents front-facing as he entered Downing Street, the office of the prime minister. The documents were long-lensed by a photographer, revealing details of the operation.
A number of students at Liverpool John Moores University were subsequently arrested, and Quick was forced to resign.
Blunkett went on to call for the creation of an international cyber-crime fighting unit, saying that cyber-crime poses not only a military threat, "but an economic one", and that, "understanding where these threats are coming from is an important defensive measure".