Virus sends data from Belgian leader's computer to servers in Hong Kong

Virus targeting prime minister sent data to server in Hong Kong, Brussels authorities say

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 September, 2013, 4:07am

Hong Kong has been linked to new computer hacking allegations after the Belgian government revealed that its prime minister had been the target of a cyberattack using a virus that sent data to servers in the city.

Security experts investigating the computer network at the offices of the prime minister, Elio Di Rupo discovered the virus.

"A virus was detected on a number of computers of the federal office that was communicating with a server in Hong Kong," the prime minister's office said on Friday.

"Currently, there is no proof that the hacking was carried out by a state authority."

This latest cyberattack comes amid heightened fears of global cyberspying since US fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden exposed a vast network of secret surveillance programmes run by US and British spy agencies in June.

He broke cover in Hong Kong shortly after leaking classified documents detailing the US National Security Agency's wide-ranging collection of internet and phone data. Snowden, 30, is currently in Russia, where he was granted temporary asylum by the Kremlin despite the United States' requests for his extradition to face charges of espionage.

Belgian government officials said they had strengthened the security of computers at the prime minister's offices and installed an extra virus-detection system.

The government also plans to spend more money on cybersecurity next year.

In May, hackers sent e-mails from Di Rupo's personal account to Belgium's De Morgen newspaper but the national daily did not publish them. The e-mails were dated between 2004 and 2008, when Di Rupo was president of Belgium's Socialist Party and before he became prime minister in 2011. Most of the e-mails were of a private nature, although some did refer to his political activities, the paper said.

Separately, Belgium is investigating suspected foreign state espionage against its main telecoms company, Belgacom, the top carrier of voice traffic in Africa and the Middle East. The company filed a complaint that several of its servers and computers had been hacked.