17 Sep 2013

Belgium Investigates Cyber-Espionage; Fingers Pointed at the US

Belgium is investigating the alleged cyber-espionage attack targeting its main telecommunications company, according to Reuters. As the top stakeholder of Belgacom, the government condemned the intrusion and the violation of a public company.

The telecom provider, which also carries most of the voice traffic in Africa and the Middle East, filed a complaint in July about the hacking of its servers and computers. Prosecutors declined to say where the cyber-attack originated, but the media pointed fingers at the United States.

"The inquiry has shown that the hacking was only possible by an intruder with significant financial and logistic means," federal prosecutors told Reuters. "This fact, combined with the technical complexity of the hacking and the scale on which it occurred, points towards international state-sponsored cyber espionage."

The Belgian daily “De Standaard” said the National Security Agency in the US has been monitoring Belgacom traffic for two years. The newspaper’s investigation revealed that hackers have been mainly interested in the international traffic of the company’s subsidiary BICS, the biggest voice carrier in Africa and the Middle East.

Besides malware, hackers used advanced encryption techniques to steal important Belgacom data, but caused no financial damage, according to prosecutors. The company cleaned the virus out of its servers and said it improved security.

In May this year, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the electronic surveillance project of the US government, showing that it has tracked enormous quantities of the email and telephone data of both Americans and others.

As the government data collection program still makes headlines worldwide, large tech groups such as Google, Facebook and Reddit asked for less secrecy around requests for user data.