Sunday

30th Apr 2017

EU institutions hit by 'major' cyber attack ahead of summit

  • The institutions have taken action to prevent the spread of unauthorised information (Photo: eurocontrol)

The European Commission and the External Action Service have been hit by a "major" cyber attack ahead of a key EU summit where crucial decisions on the future structure of the bloc, countries' economic strategies and the ongoing war in Libya are to be discussed.

The commission will not comment on the nature of the attacks due to security concerns, but has confirmed the institutions are indeed the focus of a serious strike. Meanwhile officials are comparing the attack to an assault on the French finance ministry last year ahead of a G20 meeting.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We're regularly hit by cyber attacks, but this one's a big one," said an EU source familiar with the matter that did not want to be named.

An internal email seen by EUobserver and sent to all staff warned: "We have found evidence that both the commission and EEAS are the subject of an ongoing widespread cyber attack."

The commission is currently attempting to assess the scale of the threat underway and in order to prevent the "disclosure of unauthorised information", and has shut down external access to email and the institutions' intranet.

All staff have been asked to change their passwords and to send sensitive information via secure email.

One EU source suggested the attack was similar to the massive assault which bombarded the French finance ministry last last year and was described by budget minister François Baroin as "spectacular".

The authors of the attack had been particularly interested in files on the G20 summit held in Paris in February.

At the time, Patrick Pailloux, the head of France's National Agency for Information Systems Security described the attack as "pure espionage ... one of the most important attacks, if not the most important, ever to target the public administration."

Some 150 computers were affected. French officials also suggested that some of the information was redirected to Chinese sites.

An EU source suggested that in this case too, China may be among the suspects.

"This is an important summit in many ways. There are people who want to know what the different positions are in what's being discussed."

In the attack on Brussels officials are publicly refusing to discuss the scale of the attack or its source.

"We are not speculating on the origin," EU institutional affairs spokesman Antony Gravili told EUobserver.

It is thought to be the first such attack on the External Action Service, although Gravili was keen to downplay this record.

"It's difficult to say whether this is the first one. So much of the EAS is still technically DG Relex [the external relations department of the commission, the precursor of the EAS]," he said.

Focus

The EU and cyber security

Cloud computing, smartphones, viruses attacking nuclear plants. In the October Focus, the EUobserver turns its attention to cyber security and EU's attempts to set up rules for safer navigation on the internet.

EU boasts unity on Brexit talks

EU leaders adopted the bloc's guidelines for the UK exit negotiations that will start in June, amid concerns that France could elect a president that would try to take it out of the EU.

Column / Brexit Briefing

May’s election juggernaut

The prime minister's Tories almost need not bother campaigning for the June election. There is no opposition worthy of the name.

Investigation

Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin

Le Pen traf Putin dreimal, nicht einmal, wie berichtet wurde. Aber wieviel Geld bekam ihre Partei und an welche Bedingungen war es geknüpft?

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual