Thursday

29th Sep 2022

Exclusive

State-level espionage on EU tagged as 'Very High Threat'

The most successful attempts of espionage at a top EU institution are state sponsored, according to an internal document.

The restricted document presents an analysis of threats to the security of information at the General Secretariat of the Council (GSC).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The GSC administers over the Council, representing member states, as well as the more politically-oriented European Council.

"The majority of discovered, successful compromises of information in the GSC are from threat source level VERY HIGH (e.g. state sponsored attacks)," notes the document, dated 26 May and obtained by this website.

The GSC is a prime target because it deals with the negotiation and adoption of EU laws, coordinates member state policies, and develops the EU's common foreign and security policy.

It also helps negotiations on international agreements.

"Any country with a conflict between their national and EU interests or which may have an interest in EU information only, may try to undertake an attack on the security of information handled in GSC," it says.

The 28-page document was drafted by the Council's security committee.

It does not provide specific examples.

But it does highlight China, noting the country had in 2016 led the world in espionage malware, followed by Russia and the rest of Europe.

"The GSC can also be attacked via systems located in EU member states," it adds.

The most common attacks include phishing emails, enticing people to either click on a link or open an attachment.

One such attack took place in late November 2018 when a phishing campaign hacked into a network at the Cypriot ministry of foreign affairs.

The network was ultra-sensitive because the European Union uses it to facilitate cooperation on foreign policy issues.

Known as COREU, the network operates between the EU states, the Council of the European Union, the EU's foreign policy branch (EEAS) and the European Commission.

Experts says the campaign had been led by the Chinese government via its Strategic Support Force of the People's Liberation Army.

State-sponsored espionage is not the only threat.

Four threat-levels

The document spells out four levels of threat.

It classifies as low amateur hackers and open source researchers. Medium is reserved for insiders who do not have privileged access to systems.

High level is for "hactivists", privileged insiders, and any organisation carrying out cyber crime.

"The insider threat (deliberate actions by GSC staff against the security of information) is rare as evidenced by past incidents (only one case)," it notes.

Very high is for those carrying out government orders to hack systems.

The Council internal document's findings was compiled by the EU's intelligence centre (Intcen), US government sources, the Computer Emergency Response Team for the EU Institutions known as CERT-EU, Kaspersky Lab, Microsoft, among others.

The probe took place throughout 2017 and was updated in November last year.

Investigation

China suspected of bio-espionage in 'heart of EU'

Chinese spies have targeted Belgian biological warfare experts, vaccine-maker GSK, and other high-tech firms in the country, Belgium's intelligence service suspects.

Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory

In Warsaw and Budapest, the prime ministers were quick to congratulate the new Italian leader, who — they hope — will back them in their battles with the EU over civil rights, rule of law and democratic backsliding.

EU seeks crisis powers to take control over supply chains

The Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) introduces a staged, step-by-step, approach — providing emergency powers to the EU Commission to tackle any potential threat which could trigger disruptions or shortages of key products within the EU.

Testimony from son rocks trial of ex-Czech PM Babiš

In a fraud trial relating to €2m in EU subsidies, Andrej Babiš son testified his signature on share-transfer agreements was forged. He claims his father transferred the shares to him without his knowledge, making him a front man for scheme.

Column

EU should admonish less, and listen more, to the Global South

Whether on Russia, or gas, or climate change, or food security, the EU's constant finger-wagging and moralising is becoming unbearably repetitive and self-defeating. Most countries in the Global South view it as eurocentric and neo-colonial.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

News in Brief

  1. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  2. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  3. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  4. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  5. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  6. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap
  7. EU: Nord Stream explosions 'result of a deliberate act'
  8. EU okays €21bn Covid-recovery funding for Italy amid concern

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. The European shipping giants plying Putin's fossil-fuels trade
  2. Russian ideologue and caviar on latest EU blacklist
  3. Netherlands tops EU social safety net for the poor
  4. New EU rules to make companies liable for their AI failures
  5. Can King Charles III reset the broken Brexit relationship?
  6. Meloni's navy-blockade plan to stop Libya migrants 'unlikely'
  7. Underwater explosions were detected near Nord Stream leaks
  8. EU countries stall new pesticide rules, blame Ukraine war

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us