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Belgium Investigates Suspected Cyber Spying By Foreign State 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the usual-suspect dept.
First time accepted submitter julf writes "The Belgian newspaper De Standaard reports that in an internal investigation, Belgacom, the mostly state-owned telecoms operator in Belgium, discovered evidence that the NSA has been listening in (Dutch) on the Belgacom network since 2011. From the Reuters article: 'Belgium said on Monday it was investigating suspected foreign state espionage against its main telecoms company, which is the top carrier of voice traffic in Africa and the Middle East, and a newspaper pointed the finger at the United States. Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the former state telecoms monopoly Belgacom had filed a complaint in July about the hacking of several servers and computers. "The inquiry has shown that the hacking was only possible by an intruder with significant financial and logistic means," they said.'"
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Belgium Investigates Suspected Cyber Spying By Foreign State

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  • ...since only 2011?!? Consider yourselves lucky. I remember hearing about Echelon decades ago.
    • by GNious (953874)

      Since it is belgacom, I'm surprised they even discovered it; Very likely it could have gone on for years, and they are only seeing the most-recent intrusion.
      Belgacom generally are incompetent, such that it often takes them 4-5 attempts to connect a phone-line (per our repeated experience, ca everytime someone in the area moves)

      • by amorsen (7485)

        Well on the upside someone actually had to hack their way in. In at least one other country, the telecoms incumbent was sold off, and the national ID registry was outsourced to an American company. When the NSA wants access to either, they will not have to be nearly as crude about it.

  • Belgium was the home of the most notorious super villains EVAR [whysanity.net].

    And the last thing the US needs is to be blackmailed again for *dum-dum DAH* ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS!

  • by ImOuttaHere (2996813) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:03AM (#44863995)

    This is an interesting development.

    Having said that, the Germans, French, and other European states have publicly denounced NSA spying. Yet, they all quietly continue to work as normal with the US. So... what gives? Are they politically motivated to put limits on NSA spying or is it all for public show?

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:17AM (#44864117)

      This is an interesting development.

      Having said that, the Germans, French, and other European states have publicly denounced NSA spying. Yet, they all quietly continue to work as normal with the US. So... what gives? Are they politically motivated to put limits on NSA spying or is it all for public show?

      To them, the US is essentially a necessary evil (how evil depends on your point of view, I guess). European governments depend on the US for protection both militarily (NATO) and through other methods such as the NSA/CIA. By working with the NSA, they gain access to some of the NSA's capabilities without having to make the necessary investments to their own security apparatus, which allows them to divert funds and energy to other things. Obviously the population of Eurpe is not happy with the NSA, or with the US government generally (however I feel like they at least are generally amiable towards Americans as individuals). So, essentially the European governments are getting to have their cake and eat it too. Privately they get the support necessary from the US government to continue on the way they have been, while publicly denouncing it to appeal to their domestic constituency. They probably don't like it, but more than likely they see it as the only option.

      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:52AM (#44864455) Homepage

        European governments depend on the US for protection both militarily (NATO)

        Really?

        The biggest conventional military threat to EU nations would be Russia, which has about 1 million active duty military personnel. If France, Italy, Germany, and the UK combine, they have forces roughly even with Russia. If things get bad enough, the rest of the EU would certainly be interested in defending themselves, so you'd have Greece, Spain, Poland, and Romania putting in another 400,000 or so into action, plus a lot of smaller countries fielding forces of around 30-40,000 troops. Even if you look at nukes, then yes, Russia could blow up Europe, but the UK and France could also blow up Russia. And if everyone mobilizes their reserves, that doesn't change the math much.

        As far as spying goes, I'm sure that the Europeans have significant investments in it. Sure, they probably work with the US to get their hands on the latest and greatest, but there's no reason to think they're slouches in that department. And in counter-terrorism, the UK and Spain have had lots of practice at dealing with terrorists (the IRA and Basque separatists) and would be able to lead the effort if they needed to.

        So I'm not convinced that the EU depends on the US to defend itself. It cooperates with the US for the cost reasons you've mentioned, but the "we need the Americans to be able to defend ourselves" argument isn't valid.

        • The biggest conventional military threat to EU nations would be Russia, which has about 1 million active duty military personnel. If France, Italy, Germany, and the UK combine, they have forces roughly even with Russia. If things get bad enough, the rest of the EU would certainly be interested in defending themselves, so you'd have Greece, Spain, Poland, and Romania putting in another 400,000 or so into action, plus a lot of smaller countries fielding forces of around 30-40,000 troops.

          If your entire analysis of the military is based on troop numbers, then it's useless. How many planes does each have? What are their prospects of gaining air superiority? Do you understand why air superiority is important in military engagements? These are the sorts of questions you need to ask.

          • by amorsen (7485)

            Russia doesn't have the logistics to go to conventional war with EU. There is no way it could get its supply lines running to handle that kind of campaign. Even if they did gain air superiority, there are too many anti-air systems in the EU to allow them air supremacy, and without air supremacy the campaign would eventually grind to a halt. Hopefully such all-out conflicts are a thing of the past.

            The EU's problem is that it has practically no force projection capability itself. France could handle Mali, but

            • Russia doesn't have the logistics to go to conventional war with EU. There is no way it could get its supply lines running to handle that kind of campaign.

              This is hard to believe.

            • It has "force projection ability". It simply doesn't care to use it.

          • by dkleinsc (563838)

            The EU is much better equipped than Russia when they work together: They have over 2000 combat aircraft (second only to the US), a navy that is somewhat larger than the US complete with 4 carriers, 6000 main battle tanks and plenty of other hardware, giving them approximately 3:2 superiority over what Russia has in most areas.

            Anyone thinking seriously of attacking Europe with conventional weapons is asking for a serious smackdown: They could probably take on China or the US if they had to.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          dkleinsc is right. There is another point: The entire EU together have less enemies than US.
          Anyway, the EU really needs US, but it's not about military: it's about economy.

      • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:56AM (#44864511) Homepage

        Europe has plenty enough military capability for its needs. France and the UK spend a disproportionate amount of money on their militaries. I really doubt military protection even crosses the minds of politicians in Europe.

        Politicians roll over for a variety of reasons. One is that some of them have the same worldview as the most hawkish members of Congress. Look at how Cameron and some other senior Tory MP's were salivating over the idea of bombing the shit out of Syria. The disappointment at the no vote was obviously not faked, they genuinely felt like that. It's an age thing - politicians skew old and older people tend to have more aggressive foreign policy views than younger people do (at the moment).

        Another reason is that they understand the political situation in the USA all too well. The USA does not have friends, or allies. The "special relationship" crap the UK government is fond of trotting out fools nobody, which is confirmed by polling. In the Congressional mindset there exists only two worlds, domestic and foreign. That means the USA won't even hesitate to apply the same brutal economic strategies it applies to Iran to other countries, if those countries were to step out of line. As FATCA rolls out parliaments around the world are learning this one the hard way and are being forced to change their own laws to avoid Iran's fate. The USA has announced to the world that you're either with them or against them, and if you're against them, you'll be treated no differently to any other "rogue state". If the sanctioned and destroyed institutions are systematically important European banks - no problem.

        Understandably, European politicians do not want to go in front of their own people and say "We cannot implement this policy because the USA will impose crippling punishments on us automatically if we do", because that makes them seem weak and useless (which indeed they are). And they believe that even if a popular vote were to bring in such a policy, if it resulted in serious recession and job losses then they'd be punished for it. Whether they're right or not is hard to say. Much better to just ignore the elephant in the room, especially if they actually like the idea of seeming tough and strong and being the next Churchill.

        The risk is that growing anti-Americanism (which as you observe, is in reality closer to anti-Washington-ism) will continue to be a blind spot for major political parties until it turns into a boiling over pot, just as concerns about immigration did. That leads to the possibility of parties with extremely radical policies starting to gain power, which history tells us is rarely a positive thing.

        • France and the UK spend a disproportionate amount of money on their militaries.

          This is because France and England are merely 6 km apart.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          >Europe has plenty enough military capability for its needs. France and the UK spend a disproportionate
          >amount of money on their militaries. I really doubt military protection even crosses the
          >minds of politicians in Europe.

          Spoken like a true American. (And I don't even know if you are one.)
          Europeans know what war is really like, and having lived through the last thousand years, they understand that it is peace which is the exception, and not war. If push ever comes to shove, Europe might win, but

          • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday September 16, 2013 @02:04PM (#44865849) Homepage

            I'm a Brit who lives in central Europe. So, if you have a point, I'm not sure what it is.

            Europe isn't it like it was in the first part of the 20th century. There are no former, broken empires having massive war reparations extracted from them right on Britain's doorstep. There are no charismatic leaders with radically nationalistic talk. Russia isn't going to invade Europe anytime soon. Neither is China. In the event that the world undergoes radical political change, there will be plenty of warning and time to engage in an arms race.

            The country that has most extra-territorial control over Europe is the USA. Russia and China do not explicitly threaten or indeed engage in warfare of any kind against Europeans. The USA has actually passed laws that will automatically bankrupt any financial institution anywhere that does not comply with US law. If US law conflicts with local law, tough.

            If there's ANY country that Europe might need to defend itself against in the forseeable future, it's the USA. Against military attack? Probably not. Against other forms of attack? It already happens.

      • by houghi (78078)

        Europe does NOT need to USofA for protection. For that we have, as had been said, the NATO. We have two countries that have atomic weapons and as a whole, there is only one country that could threaten us and that is the USofA. Russia was never a threat to Europe.

        We also have several spying agencies in Europe, so no real issue there.

        So why all these (secret) compromises with the NSA and the CIA? I am guessing here, but I think it is because
        1) It is easy. Why invest in something if you can just buy the infor

        • by joss (1346)

          > Russia was never a threat to Europe

          Really !?

          Germany and Czechoslovakia might disagree just for starters. I mean, Russia sure had their reasons to be nervous, but "never a threat" is a bizarre statement.

        • We have two countries that have atomic weapons and as a whole, there is only one country that could threaten us and that is the USofA. Russia was never a threat to Europe.

          Ah, memories. The banners at Greenham Common saying "Russkis take your nukeskis homeski". Maggie Thatcher sucking Gorbachev's cock. RAF Fylingdale, in Northwest Scotland, to cover the great circle route that was the likeliest approach path for missiles and bombers.

    • Public show. :)

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Don't attribute to stupidity what can be adequately explained by greed/malice/agreement to a cheaper way to snoop in their own citizens/buying the promise that they won't be desestabilized next with the intelligence that US is gathering (ok, this one is stupidity too). After all, they don't have oil, so are still low in the list of priorities. Or maybe they didn't know what reaction they can do without shooting themselves in the foot, or that the intelligence gathered contains elements to blackmail them.
    • by 1s44c (552956)

      It's all public show. Improve the security of the dam computers and stop employing American spies!

    • "don't forget to buy that lilac tutu for your daughter since her birthday is in 15 days oh btw her size in in stock at %location% which is currently the best place..

      but thats a KIDS store and all my daughters are grown up

      All your daughters the PUBLIC knows about are but...

      oh right so dinner at the steak place tonight??"

      • by fritsd (924429)
        That's a cultural misunderstanding. The USA has puritanical protestant roots; maybe your example would work there. See e.g. the scary but hilarious Ben Elton book "Blast from the Past" [wikipedia.org]

        Meanwhile in Europe, IIRC, when François Mitterand was once asked by a reporter: "Sir, is it true that you have an illegitimate daughter?", he responded: "Yes, and?", which I think is the only correct response for a politician.
    • Having said that, the Germans, French, and other European states have publicly denounced NSA spying. Yet, they all quietly continue to work as normal with the US. So... what gives? Are they politically motivated to put limits on NSA spying or is it all for public show?

      I'm curious what you think Belgium could actually do to stop NSA spying? Pass a law against it, perhaps?

      Alas, espionage (both sigint and humint) has been a part of every government in history, and it's not going to stop now. You can catch a

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        I'm curious what you think Belgium could actually do to stop NSA spying?

        Ban US companies from supplying equipment or running infrastructure. Similar to how the US is trying to ban Chinese products and companies from running things.

        Pass a law against it, perhaps?

        The NSA already breaks the law, so there is probably no need. Convicting or at least issuing arrest warrants for US citizens is actually surprisingly effective. As well as preventing employees of US companies from travelling to Europe (it would be an EU wide warrant/conviction) anyone associated with them could be stopped and questioned, and any compa

  • ...discovered evidence that the NSA has been listening in (Dutch) on the Belgacom network since 2011.

    Meanwhile, the French, British, Iranians, North Koreans, Chinese, Russians, several major drug cartels, Iceland, New Zealand, Germans, Australians... their taps on the same wires were left alone and unnoticed. Because everyone on the internet knows that only the NSA and those pesky American's ever spy on anyone else, because they're all signals intelligence virgins who just don't see the point in espionage when we're all just one big happy carebear family.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to start tr

    • by wytcld (179112) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:14AM (#44864075) Homepage

      Yeah, major drug cartels and especially Iceland have massive data centers that rival what the US has. Right. That must be why so many of the job postings for those with related skills are in Columbia and Iceland.

      Look, we know that the NSA hires shills to mock all of us who are concerned with this stuff. You're probably not one of them. You probably just do it for free.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Since drug cartels run multiple governments in Latin America, why not?

        Israel, Russia and China certainly have a pretty high level of skill in this arena as well.

        They must be laughing up their sleeves at the NSA. They would have taken Snowden out LONG ago.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          What 'multiple governments' drug cartels really run in Latin America? Care to point out?

      • Yeah, major drug cartels and especially Iceland have massive data centers that rival what the US has. Right. That must be why so many of the job postings for those with related skills are in Columbia and Iceland.

        Iceland is building a 50 to 70 acre data center [datacenterdynamics.com]. And they're hiring [ibtimes.com] tons.

        The mexican drug cartel has a massive national wireless network [wfaa.com]. They're hiring too, but you have to apply in person; They don't take online resumes.

        Look, we know that the NSA hires shills to mock all of us who are concerned with this stuff. You're probably not one of them. You probably just do it for free.

        Well, you got one thing right: I do this for free. I suppose 1 out of 6 is better than your usual average though.

    • Because they discovered hacking would require significant financial and logistics means.

      Not tagging onto the trans-atlantic cables with a hardware device. Hacking of computers.

      "Our systems are so secure though! They couldn't have been hacked by teenagers! Only like... a rich and powerful bazillionare, or a government, or something, would b e able to break our shit! It has encryption!"

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Meanwhile, the French, British, Iranians, North Koreans, Chinese, Russians, several major drug cartels, Iceland, New Zealand, Germans, Australians... their taps on the same wires were left alone and unnoticed.

      You're free to believe whatever crap you want, but there's no evidence these countries were spying in this case.

      • there's no evidence these countries were spying in this case.

        That's how spying works - when you do it right.

  • USA = TERRORISTS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:15AM (#44864095)

    We should shut down every relations with such hostile and aggressive country.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Who will come to your aid the next time you're occupied? You're going to have a real problem in 30-50 years.

      • Look at what Europe does to people who oppose the USA. We're already occupied!

      • Re:USA = LIBERATOR (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:56AM (#44864497)

        Who will come to your aid the next time you're occupied? You're going to have a real problem in 30-50 years.

        Learn history. The USA have liberated the pacific islands from the Japanese forces. The US did not liberate Europe. That was accomplished at over 80% by the soviets. The US played a very little part in the liberation of Europe and went on to gain a lot in the aftermath of the war (same as the soviets by the way).
        If you think the US "participated" in the european theater out of the kindness of their hearts to aid their european bretheren I have the Brooklyn bridge to sell you along with the state of New York. Great deal !

        • The US did not liberate Europe. That was accomplished at over 80% by the soviets.

          Replacing one deranged silly-mustached dictator with a different deranged silly-mustached dictator isn't liberation, houghi.

      • by shikaisi (1816846)

        Who will come to your aid the next time you're occupied?

        The British, just like they usually do. And the Americans will turn up 3 years late, just like they usually do.

    • Let's face it, the economic importance of the USA in the world is waning. This is the century of Asia (not just my words), and you notice already how the economic balance is shifting.
  • Netherlands?? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:47AM (#44864387)

    Why is this post tagged with 'netherlands'? Belgium hasn't been part of the netherlands since 1830 ... I know you lot are a bit retarded when it comes to history, but nearly 200 years is a pretty long time ..

    • by BenoitRen (998927)

      I was going to ask the same question. What's more, to Belgians it's insulting to be associated with The Netherlands.

      • I've been asking for ethnic slurs against the phlems for years (rehashing an old Monty Python bit). Who knew all I had to do was call them Dutch.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      Why is this post tagged with 'netherlands'?

      Because some idiot with a poor knowledge of gerography doesn't realize that Dutch is spoken in countries other than the Netherlands?

  • Remember the Greeks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nicolaiplum (169077) on Monday September 16, 2013 @11:59AM (#44864559)

    The USA has got form here. Remember the Greek Vodafone hacks in 2004 - technically sophisticated and never traced, but available evidence pointed to the geographic region of the US Embassy in Athens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_wiretapping_case_2004 [wikipedia.org]–05

  • Seriously, what do they expect, giving their country a name like that? [wikia.com] Of course they're going to piss people off!

  • It's one thing when the local news uses the word 'cyber' when talking about things like cyberbullying or cyberattacks, but it feels like a punch in the stomach when a tech site does the same. To me that is a word that should not be synonymous with the Internet. I mean, it's not like we're all walking around with VR helmits on here.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Belgacom is a main global provider of GRX and IPX connectivity, in layman's terms, the private IP networks that are used to transport voice, messaging and data traffic between Wireless network providers when their subscribers roam abroad. If they can hack into Belgacom, they can probably get access to upwards of 50% of global romaing traffic that they otherwise wouldn't see on the public internet taps they have around the place.

  • by iroll (717924) on Monday September 16, 2013 @01:21PM (#44865407) Homepage

    discovered evidence that the NSA has been listening in (Dutch) on the Belgacom network

    So French speakers should be fine, right?

  • If you are using american operating systems (Windows, notably), and Israeli products (Checkpoint, NetApp), what are you expecting? That the Mossad and CIA won't take advantage of it? Seriously? Using Huawei too? Are you they so delusional, naive, or are they just covering the tracks of their own stupidity? China got it in the right direction with red flag Linux and Loongson.
  • by X.25 (255792) on Monday September 16, 2013 @02:39PM (#44866097)

    I also presume US government will extradite these criminals who were breaking all kinds of international (and domestic) laws, and were waging cyber warfare against another sovereign country.

    After all, this is what US expects from others, so it would only be nice that they start following what they preach, eh?

    United States of Corruption. That's what USA has became. Any 'moral high ground' that US had, on pretty much *any* issue, is simply gone.

    It is beyond sad, a country we all looked up to some 20 years ago. Turned into complete shit :(

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