Kemi Badenoch MP, self-confessed website hacker

Ten years ago she hacked the blog of Harriet Harman MP.


In 2008, someone hacked the website of British MP Harriet Harman.

Harman, who was deputy leader of the Labour Party at the time, had a spoof message posted on her blog claiming that she had resigned and was switching to the Conservatives:

To friends, foes and fans,

Below is a copy of the resignation letter that landed on Gordon’s desk this morning.
I couldn’t be bothered to type a completely new one, seeing as Quentin Davies (LO-SER!) had written a perfectly good one here, I thought I’d just change the relevant sections… a swap for a swap if you like.

In another update, the hacked website claimed that Harman was lending her support to Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.

Harman backs Boris?

How did a hacker break into Harman’s website? Well, according to the Guido Fawkes blog, they discovered that Harriet Harman’s password was ummm.. rather weak.

Username: Harriet
Password: Harman

Oh dear oh dear. Of course, it wasn’t to be the last time that British parliamentarians were found to have a poor grasp of computer security.

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So, why talk about this 2008 hack now? Well, we now know who hacked Harriet Harman’s website.

Last year, Kemi Badenoch was elected the conservative MP for Saffron Walden. Badenoch is perhaps not your typical Tory MP. She studied computer systems engineering at university, and has worked since as a software engineer and systems analyst.

And, when she starred in a video answering quirky questions, she revealed her naughty secret between giggles:

Interviewer: What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?

Kemi Badenoch: About 10 years ago I hacked into… a Labour MP’s website and I changed all the stuff in there to say nice things about Tories.

Breaking into someone else’s website is, of course, an offence under the Computer Misuse Act (unauthorised access), and changing its content is also an offence (unauthorised modification). No laughing matter.

It doesn’t matter a jot that Harriet Harman had such an appalling password.

The version of the video published on YouTube, perhaps sensibly, chose to edit out the naughty secret. But the Mail on Sunday managed to get its paws on a copy regardless last weekend.

This media interest motivated Badenoch to issue an apology, describing the incident as “a foolish prank over a decade ago, for which I apologise”.

With so much time having passed I don’t think Kemi Badenoch is going to find herself in any legal trouble, and Harriet Harman has forgiven her.

But regardless that Badenoch’s hack was motivated more by mischief than malice or money, I think it’s a pretty poor show. Badenoch was 28 years old at the time of the offence, and can hardly shrug off the incident as the result of a heady cocktail of political fervour and youthful exuberance.

To hear more about this incident, be sure to listen to this episode of the “Smashing Security” podcast:

Smashing Security #073: 'Rick Astley: Never gonna hack you up...'

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Update July 2022:

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

8 comments on “Kemi Badenoch MP, self-confessed website hacker”

  1. Daniel

    She has spent the past few weeks talking in parliament on the need to firm up and enforce laws against cyber crime, so one may say that she has double standards.

    1. Gary Williams · in reply to Daniel

      Or maybe she understands thr risk of MP’s using poir security? She seems ideal to lead the charge on cyber defences. At least she has a clue.

  2. Peter Freeman

    I don't think there is any legal basis for ignoring computer crime, even if it happened ten years ago. At the very least this MP should be interviewed under caution; if it had happened in the US it is likely that she would have been arrested.

    1. etaoin shrdlu · in reply to Peter Freeman

      Only if she were a Republican.

  3. elrond

    Or that she learned from her experiences. Graham needs to grow a sense of humor. He is always saying stuff that borders on the offensive, but let someone else do something a little bit off and Bob's your Uncle.

    1. coyote · in reply to elrond

      Your handle is an extremely ironic name… though you probably don't realise just how much so (I won't even try and tell you).

      But Graham does have a sense of humour. The fact you've missed it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And his punning is excellent too (and very often funny – the two go together well). I question how any of what he wrote is bad enough to even come close to cause offence. With one exception: those wanting to be offended; and sadly there are many people who want to be offended. Of course they complain when they're offended which really means they enjoy whining; they should just close their mouths or sod off. Besides that he was only saying her behaviour/character was rather poor. And it was. It was poor and for her age she should have known better. There isn't anything funny about people performing poorly unless of course you like to take advantage of them and/or find humour out of other people's failures (etc.).

  4. etaoin shrdlu

    There is probably no way to prosecute her successfully. The only evidence against her is her public confession, which is probably both inadmissible and insufficient. She can't be made to repeat it under oath and was not under oath in the TV interview.

  5. etaoin shrdlu

    "a heady cocktail or political fervour and youthful exuberance."

    I wonder if you meant a cocktail "of"?

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