Kremlin-linked entities are believed to have been behind a sophisticated cyber espionage attack that targeted the European Union’s embassy in Moscow and stole highly sensitive material from the mission’s internal network just weeks before the European Parliament elections in late May.
The fact that Russia’s intelligence services were involved in a hacking case whose main target was the democratic process of a Western political institution is of little surprise, but reports that the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s foreign and security policy agency, did not share any information of the attack with Brussels’ most senior officials, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk has caught many off guard.
The initial attack took place in February 2017, but was only detected in April this year and European officials are uncertain as to exactly how much and what kind of information was stolen by Moscow at the time.
According to an analysis done in the weeks after the incident more than two years ago, the EEAS determined that the cyber espionage hack was a continuous, clandestine, and sophisticated hacking technique used to gain access to a system and remain undetected for an extended period of time.
The EU’s 28 members were informed of the security breach, but there is still a great deal of speculation as to how much information was passed on to each country, as well as up the chain of command to the European Commission. “We have identified signs potentially pointing to compromised systems connected to our unclassified network in our Moscow Delegation. Measures have been taken to ensure the security of our network and an investigation is in progress. Therefore, at this stage we cannot comment further,” an EU spokesperson told New Europe.
The EU adopted a series of measures to counter cyber attacks, including an action plan against disinformation, amid evidence of ongoing aggressive activity by Russia to interfere in the campaigns of EU nations ahead of May’s European Parliament elections.
Moscow pushed online conspiracy theories after shoot down of MH17
News of Russia’s hacking into the EU mission in Moscow came almost simultaneously after Dutch investigative journalists revealed that within minutes of reports that a Russian surface-to-air missile had brought down a passenger jet and killed all 298 people onboard, Kremlin-linked trolls worked to shift the blame away from Moscow and Russian-backed separatists for the massacre and create a fog of conspiracy theories to be picked up by the conservative Western media.
The Dutch-led Joint Investigative Team ruled that Malaysian Airlines 17 was shot down by a Russian BUK missile. Two-thirds of those onboard were citizens of The Netherlands.