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23 August, 2019
 
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NYT: Chinese hackers infiltrated Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs systems

EU cables exposed after phishing campaign aimed at Cypriot diplomats

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According to the New York Times, Chinese hackers infiltrated the European Union’s diplomatic communications network for three years downloading thousands of cables. They did so by running a phishing campaign aimed at diplomats in Cyprus.

Diplomatic sources speaking to Kathimerini said that "it is a very complex issue and is thoroughly being looked at", noting that there is no easy answer at this time. More information will be provided on the subject in the next few hours. Another source, aware of the incident repeated that authorities are dealing with the case. The Cypriot Foreign Minister also has knowledge of the issue.

After getting into the Cyprus system, the hackers had access to passwords that were needed to connect to the European Union’s entire database of exchanges

David E. Sanger and Steven Erlanger report that unlike WikiLeaks in 2010 or the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic Party leaders in 2016, the cyberattack on the European Union made no effort to publish the stolen material. Instead, it was a matter of pure espionage.

''It also displayed the remarkably poor protection of routine exchanges among European Union officials after years of embarrassing government leaks around the world.''

The New York Times article published yesterday December 18, said:

''In this case, the cables were exposed after a run-of-the-mill phishing campaign aimed at diplomats in Cyprus pierced the island nation’s systems, said Oren Falkowitz, the chief executive of Area 1.“People talk about sophisticated hackers, but there was nothing really sophisticated about this,” Mr. Falkowitz said. After getting into the Cyprus system, the hackers had access to passwords that were needed to connect to the European Union’s entire database of exchanges.''

''After burrowing into the European network, called COREU (or Courtesy), the hackers had the run of communications linking the European Union’s 28 countries, on topics ranging from trade and tariffs to terrorism to summaries of summit meetings, from the vital to the insignificant.''

''Area 1’s investigators said they believed the hackers worked for the Strategic Support Force of the People’s Liberation Army, part of an organization that emerged from the Chinese signals intelligence agency that was once called 3PLA.''

More than 1,100 of the hacked European Union cables have been made available to The New York Times. The reports include ordinary diplomatic correspondence, weekly reports from missions like Kosovo, Serbia, Russia, China, Ukraine and Washington and include descriptions of conversations with leaders and other diplomats on issues such as the Ukraine conflict, Iran sanctions and China-US trade debates.

TAGS
Espionage  |  Hacking  |  Phishing  |  Cyprus  |  China  |  EU  |  Security  |  Cybersecurity

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