Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s mobile hacked during MH17 talks

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s phone was hacked during talks she led overseas for access to the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine.

The <i>Herald Sun</i> reported on Saturday that Australian intelligence officials seized the minister’s phone on her return from a two week trip to the US, Ukraine and the Netherlands, where she negotiated access for Australian and Dutch access to the site.

Flight MH17 was brought down in the Ukraine in July, killing 298 people, among them 38 Australians.

According to the report, Australian intelligence agencies replaced her phone after detecting a problem with it. They know which country Bishop’s phone hackers were from.

The paper opted not to disclose what the problem it learned of was.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told media that Bishop’s discussions with himself and Australian officials during the period were done over secure lines and not the compromised phone.

"It's well known that some countries do seek to, I suppose, target the phones of significant members of the Australian government. It's the sort of thing that does happen from time to time," he told reporters.

"But I can assure the Australian people that the very significant discussions that Julie Bishop was part of with me and with other members of the National Security Committee in recent times were all done over secure lines.”

The Herald Sun report does not identify what type of phone Bishop was using at the time, however a separate report by the paper last November showed she usually requests “iPhone 5 and iPad chargers and power adaptor” when staying at hotels.

Apple’s tightly controlled App Store and restrictions on where users can download apps from have helped keep malware threats away from iOS. However, researchers have found methods to compromise an iPhone, particularly if they’ve done their homework on a target and gain physical access to the device.

This week researchers at the Usenix Security Symposium will demonstrate how to slip malicious apps on to iPhones when they are connected via USB to a compromised Windows computer.

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