Hackers dump EU staff passwords and credit card details onto net

09.01.12 @ 15:09

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
  2. Nikolaj email
  3. Nikolaj Twitter

BRUSSELS - A number of people working for the EU institutions have had their emails, passwords and credit card details hacked and released to the general public over the Christmas break.

  • Confidential details of EU institution staff were hacked and released (Photo: MyTudut)

A partial list was recently published online by Anonymous, a loose network of cyber activists campaigning against the so-called 'New World Order'.

Among the victims are administrators and officials at the European Commission, Eurojust (an EU body fighting organised crime), the European External Action Service, the European Parliament and Brussels-based think-tank the European Policy Centre (EPC).

Some have yet to be informed of the breach.

EUobserver on Monday (9 January) spoke to EPC analyst Amanda Paul who was unaware that her credit card number, password, mobile telephone number, mail address and email are floating in the public domain.

This website read her credit card number to her over the phone to confirm authenticity. After a very brief phone interlude, she promptly called her credit card company to cancel her card and change her email password.

All together, some 850,000 confidential details were released when Anonymous hacked into the Texas-based Stratfor Global Intelligence security firm.

Stratfor is a widely used private security research company. About 75,000 of its paying subscribers also had their credit card details disclosed, including some working for the EU institutions.

The leaked database has 19,000 email addresses ending in the .mil domain of the US military according to the Guardian newspaper. The list also included 242 Nato staff members.

"This company has suffered a blow to its reputation," Andreas Hartmann of the European Parliament's policy department on Citizens' Rights and Constitutional Affairs told this website.

Hartmann's confidential details were also breached, but he said "numerous actors" immediately informed him. He would not go into further detail.

"I immediately blocked my account. I didn't suffer any problems," he said, adding that he was satisfied by Stratfor's prompt response and communication on the matter.

Last year, Hartmann headed a study on the parliamentary oversight of security and intelligence agencies in the European Union.

For his part, Fred Burton, Stratfor's vice president of intelligence made a YouTube address on 28 December assuring paid subscribers they would be informed of the breach with details on how to protect their data. The company's website is still offline and has since been replaced by a page informing customers they will be entitled to a free one-year data identity coverage from a partner firm as compensation.

"Perhaps the reason Stratfor's taking its time to get back online is because they simply have no infrastructure anymore," anonymouSabu, one of the alleged masterminds behind Anonymous, tweeted on Saturday (7 January). According to Anonymous, the details were easily hacked because Stratfor did not run routine encryption on the data.

The entire operation could cast a long shadow over intense US lobbying against a leaked draft proposal for a Data Protection Regulation from the European Commission this past December.

Among the US complaints are the European Commission's views on data breach requirements, which they consider as "overly" severe and could undermine corporate data security practices.

"It is interesting to note that the US document tends to oppose specific proposals, such as the notification deadline and fines, in support of the vague issues such as not distracting businesses from improving corporate data security practices," wrote Joe McNamee in an email to EUobserver.

McNamee is an EU advocacy co-ordinator at European Digital Rights.

Public consultation of the draft ends on 15 January, with European Commissioner Viviane Reding, in charge of fundamental rights, expected to release a final draft of the directive before the end of the month.

A previous version of this article gave Andreas Hartmann of the European Parliament's policy department on Citizens' Rights and Constitutional Affairs the wrong job description. This mistake has since been corrected.

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