The Belgian interior ministry has been the target of a “sophisticated” cyber-espionage campaign, a spokesman said on Tuesday. The attacks, which were discovered late last year, were not successful in accessing the most sensitive data, Olivier Maerens, the Federal Public Service Interior’s communications director, insisted. He said that the ministry’s servers were well-protected.
The federal prosecutors’ office launched an investigation into the major attack. Belgian experts revealed that the operation started in 2019.
Another attack carried out in May caused the Belnet network to cripple. Higher education establishments, universities, research centers, and public administrations – all rely on this network.
The attack on the interior ministry was not a ransom attempt. Instead, it was designed to gather information about the activities of officials.
It was “more complex and well targeted, leading us to think it was espionage,” the experts said.
Maerens said that the ministry had strengthened its server’s security and prevented the attackers from accessing it in the future. The discovery of the attack was kept a secret to prevent it from being exploited again by other hackers.
The leaders of the European Union’s 28 member states discussed the threats of Russian cyberattacks during a meeting in Brussels on Monday, as Russia has been accused of launching such operations.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy said on Thursday that the level of Russian interference in the country had become alarming:
“The level of Russian interference both with spies and with web manipulation has become truly alarming. We have to boost our protection, notably in terms of cybersecurity. We have to do everything, both at a national and EU level,” Draghi said.