Finland foreign ministry hit by extensive data spying activity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 1:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 4:09am

Finland's security police are investigating an "extensive" breach of the foreign ministry's data network, according to foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja.

"The data breach was an extensive attempt to spy on an entire network," Tuomioja said in Helsinki after broadcaster MTV3 reported the ministry's network was the target of intelligence gathering for as long as four years. "It seems to have been going on for an extended period of time."

While the targeted network contained confidential information, the most sensitive data wasn't transmitted through it, he said.

Espionage has taken the spotlight in international politics after an electronic surveillance programme by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) was exposed in June,thanks to revelations by NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"Every time trust is breached it's detrimental," Tuomioja said. "Diplomatic relations are based on trust."

Russian and Chinese intelligence operators were suspected of the cyber espionage, Helsinki-based MTV3 said, quoting sources it did not identify.

The government "can't at this stage confirm or deny the suspects", Tuomioja said.

The hacking was discovered early this year based on a tip from outside the country, and the government had discussed it on several occasions, he said.

While there is evidence other countries' networks have also been breached, the hacking of the Finnish network didn't endanger any other nations' data, Tuomioja said.

"This shows that the race between protecting data and data breaches is ongoing," he said.