Belgium's largest carrier admits to ongoing network breach

NSA suspected in breach of Belgacom's internal network

Belgium's largest carrier Belgacom admitted this week that it does not know how long malware that compromised its internal network had been residing on its systems.

Some reports indicate that Belgacom's systems may have been compromised for as long as two years, The Register is reporting. In addition, hackers appear to have targeted Belgacom's undersea fiber joint venture with Swisscom and MTN that supplies international telecom service to the Middle East and other regions.

The Belgium government, which has a majority stake in Belgacom, said it suspects cyberespionage by a foreign state, according a report by Reuters. Some reports suggest that the National Security Agency is the prime suspect.

"The inquiry has shown that the hacking was only possible by an intruder with significant financial and logistic means. This fact, combined with the technical complexity of the hacking and the scale on which it occurred, points towards international state-sponsored cyber espionage," Belgian federal prosecutors were quoted by the newswire as saying.

These prosecutors said that the intruders employed malware and encryption to infect the carrier's networks and gather strategic information, while going undetected.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo condemned the intrusion as a "violation of a public company's integrity."

Belgacom said in a statement that "security checks by Belgacom experts revealed traces of a digital intrusion in the company's internal IT system. Belgacom has taken all appropriate actions to protect the integrity of its IT system and to further reinforce the prevention against possible incidents."

The carrier admitted that the attack was successful, but stressed that only its internal network, not its telecom network, was penetrated.

For more:
- see The Register article
- read the Reuters report
- check out the Wall Street Journal article

Related Articles:
NSA director defends agency snooping, fends off hecklers
Hackers could exploit security hole to launch next BP oil spill