October 25, 2014

Belgium’s largest telecommunications company victim to a nation-state sponsored spying campaign

belgium_flag_mapThe Belgium government has revealed that a foreign state has been spying on its largest telecommunications company Belgacom. The company, which is a top tier carrier for voice traffic in Africa and the Middle East, was hacked by an intruder with significant financial and logistic means.

According to the Belgian daily newspaper De Standaard, the NSA is responsible for the attack and the agency has been monitoring international telephone traffic through Belgacom for two years. It is thought that the NSA was primarily interested in Belgacom’s subsidiary BICS, which provides international phone lines for Africa and the Middle East.

“This fact, combined with the technical complexity of the hacking and the scale on which it occurred, points towards international state-sponsored cyber espionage,” Federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The government of Belgium, which has a majority stake in Belgacom, condemned the intrusion but did not actually accuse the USA directly. The hack was performed using malware with advanced encryption techniques. Belgacom has now removed the unknown malware from its internal systems.

These latest accusations come in the midst of further revelations about the NSA’s actvities thanks to documents released by Edward Snowden. According to the Brazilian television network Globo, the NSA has been spying using the computer systems of companies including Google Inc. and the Brazilian state oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro. It is also alleged that the NSA hacked into France’s Foreign Ministry and has been snooping through international financial transactions made via the Belgian-based international banking cooperative SWIFT.

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