According to a spokesperson for the Belgian interior ministry, the ministry has been the victim of “sophisticated” cyber espionage.
However, Olivier Maerens, the communications director for the Federal Public Service Interior, maintained that the ministry’s computers were well-protected and that the hackers had not been able to obtain the most confidential information.
Federal prosecutors had opened an investigation into the operation’s origins, the data that had been compromised, and whether or not a foreign state was involved.
The assault, which was discovered in March, was carried out in 2019, according to Belgian experts.
The Belnet network, which links higher education institutions, colleges, research centres, and government agencies, was brought down by another large-scale attack in early May.
The attack on the interior ministry’s website, however, was not intended to trigger a website outage or demand a ransom.
According to the experts cited by RTBF, it was “more subtle and well targeted, leading us to believe it was espionage.”
“Urgent action was taken to avoid the attacker’s entry,” Maerens said, adding that server protection had been improved.
The discovery of the attack was held under wraps so that the system’s weakness could not be exposed until it was patched.
During talks on the EU’s tensions with Russia, which has been accused of conducting a variety of such operations, EU leaders met in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the threat of cyber attacks.
“The extent of Russian aggression, both by spies and web exploitation, has become truly disturbing,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at a press conference.
“We must strengthen our defences, especially in terms of cyber security. We must take all necessary steps, both on a national and EU level “Draghi stated the following.