17th Oct 2019

Kroes: WikiLeaks will increase government transparency

The WikiLeaks disclosure of US diplomatic cables highlights the need to secure networks and individuals from hackers, EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has said.

At the same time, the phenomenon stresses the need for governments to be "as transparent and open as possible," which entails the "practical advantage" of reducing the amount of information that needs to be secured, she declared.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The Dutch commissioner says transparency would reduce costs of securing data (Photo: European Parliament)

Speaking out almost three weeks after the whistleblower started publishing the leaked US cables, Ms Kroes on Thursday (16 December) during a joint US-EU cybersecurity event in Washington drew the first lessons for the EU from the Wikileaks phenomenon.

The 69-year old Dutch politician distinguished between three security incidents regarding WikiLeaks: first, the leak itself, believed to be acquired by a 22-year old US army soldier who copied all the documents onto a CD which he allegedly brought into his office to listen to pop singer Lady Gaga.

"From a cyber-security angle, this highlights the need for all organisations and individuals to protect themselves against threats to steal confidential information," Ms Kroes said.

But she also stressed the need for governments to be "as transparent and open as possible."

"I think that is an important value, but it also has a major practical advantage: it reduces the amount of information that requires special protection," the Dutch Liberal said.

On WikiLeaks being subsequently ousted from the US-basned servers and its domain name being taken down by the US company DNS, Ms Kroes asked the question if these providers "violated the terms of service" and if their location (on US soil) contributed to the decision.

"When problems arise with globally distributed services all private operators and public authorities should be able to act with some legal certainty," Ms Kroes cautiously told the US audience.

The third incident were the "hacktivist attacks" on WikiLeaks and then on sites like Amazon, Paypal and Visa in retaliation for these companies having denied service to the whistleblower. The term 'hacktivist' refers to online volunteers who allowed their computers to be used as bots - zombie computers used in mass-scale attacks which jam traffic to the website.

"A hacker called Jester mounted a denial of service (DoS) attack against the Wikileaks website. Later, in support of WikiLeaks, the group Anonymous distributed a software (LOIC) to mount voluntary distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against Visa, Paypal and governmental sites," Ms Kroes recalled.

As the number of computers used in the attacks was apparently only a few hundreds, the commissioner noted that "such attacks can be organised by just a few" and also that most of these owners voluntarily gave access to their computers.

"However, the "victim" services have also proved quite robust and agile, which demonstrates the resilience of the cloud architectures we have in place," she said.

As a consequence, the EU was now looking at criminalising the setting up of botnets and attacking information systems, she said. Also, the commission was aiming at rendering more effective justice and police cooperation in the cyber-area.

Meanwhile, in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has finally left police custody, after his bail was approved following the rejection of a Swedish appeal. While Swedish prosecutors are pursuing an alleged sexual abuse case, US authorities are also mounting a spying case against him, his lawyers said.

EU leaders to warn von der Leyen over 'giving in' to MEPs

The new commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen will meet for the first time with EU leaders who nominated her for the job. She will be asked to lay out her plans for getting her commission through parliament.


Not That Ambassador

Gordon Sondland, Donald Trump's ambassador to the EU, is due to appear before the House impeachment inquiry in Washington on Thursday. His predecessor as ambassador, Anthony Gardner, talks about the role, and his predecessor, on our EU Scream podcast.


Polish election: analysing why PiS won

Support for democracy was particularly low in Poland with only 19 percent consistently supporting democracy - only Hungary and Bulgaria scored lower.


Not That Ambassador

Gordon Sondland, Donald Trump's ambassador to the EU, is due to appear before the House impeachment inquiry in Washington on Thursday. His predecessor as ambassador, Anthony Gardner, talks about the role, and his predecessor, on our EU Scream podcast.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us