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    'It's Exceptional Case of EU Nation-State Spying on Another EU State' - Prof.

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    London has refused to cooperate with Belgium over an alleged hack of Belgian telecom company by the UK Government in 2013. Sputnik discussed the purported interference with Kevin Curran, professor of Cyber Security at the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Built Environment at Ulster University.

    Sputnik: Why would London seek to hack Belgium's telecommunications company? Why did the UK target its ally?

    Kevin Curran: Proximus group which was formerly known as Belgacom really have core routers and they're responsible for routing a lot of the phone and data traffic in Africa and the Middle East, and it's been reported that British espionage operations were seeking to target communications made between smartphones, they've also been able to, obviously, have targets that they're been surveilling but it also seemed that they wanted to be able to look at traffic which was exiting Europe to other places like the United States as well, so being able to have access to data communication, the telecommunication provider is really important because all the information goes through these routers, these were cisco routers, and that's where the infection was targeted, at these particular routers, so that they can snoop onto traffic and that's, of course, invaluable to a spy agency really.

    Sputnik: What do you make of Britain's unwillingness to cooperate in the investigation?

    Kevin Curran: GCHQ who are behind this, in fact it's their network intelligence team, they have a history of not responding to any allegations put against them really, and, of course, in this particular matter it's incredibly sensitive because what you have really is, first, because we have secret documents from GCHQ which tell us literally down to what happened and the malware that was involved, because what we have here really is an exceptional case of one EU nation-state spying on another EU nation-state.

    Sputnik: What tension could it create between Brussels and London? And what could be the potential repercussion of this incident?

    Kevin Curran: Several members of the Belgian government made remarks, now the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has not commented yet but really even the offices of Belgacom, telecommunications company, are right beside the European Parliament, so what you have here is a possible snooping on government ministers in EU new countries, you know, it's incredibly sensitive.

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    There was a fantastic review of that was done a while ago by the Intercept and the whole way this spyware was connected to these routers and the extraction of the information and what would've remained hidden for years if there wasn't a bug in the actual email software which led them to investigate to see what happened, it might still be there, of course, as malware is not found, as we say, but what we have here is that because the actual Belgian government are shareholders in this company, the telecommunications company, it's a really large one, and there are millions trying to show exactly what happened, security afterwards again.

    And there's internal employees in the company who were involved in tracing down this actual spyware and it was well done. Edward Snowden himself leaked a lot of documents in 2013 that the NSA and the GCHQ use and really a lot of it comes from social media, the cookies that are on our computers that allow us to automatically log back into Facebook and log back into Google.

    Billions of these cookies are being controlled and kept by spy agencies and that allows them later to reverse the scope of someone's IP address and they targeted engineers in Belgacom and they were able to do a lookup on the IP addresses of these particular engineers computers and look at their log-in into Yahoo and they've been able to target the social media accounts with malware which then enabled them to go deeper into the actual company itself.

    But a lot of the engineers who were involved in the initial assessment of this hack, because Microsoft were unable to solve the problem with the email server, then they brought in an external company called Fox Link really which were able to find that. The day after it was turned over to Cisco and a lot of engineers who were involved, the security analysts, were annoyed with this because they believed that turning it over to Cisco would not allow an independent analysis and they were unhappy with the way Belgacom senior management have said that they removed it fully because these guys themselves believe there was an impartial cleanup, so there's still a lot of answers that we're looking for really, but again, it really is the first proven case of an EU nation actually launching an offensive cyberattack on another nation-state in Europe.

    Sputnik: This development comes amid unceasing accusations against Russia of interfering in other nations affairs, what position do the recent revelations put London into?

    Kevin Curran: We know all the major powers have cyber teams, they're all looking really at forms of encryption, being able to overcome that, being able to take command and control of other countries grids and electricity and being able to bring down satellites, and they're putting resources into cyber offensive teams and, of course, it's incredibly difficult to estimate what the budget is or how many people are involved because we can't just fly a plane over a country and count how many tanks and planes are on the ground, when it comes to cyber warfare it is much more difficult, but we know that the major states have put a substantial amount of resources into this.

    READ MORE: Israel Sells $250Mln Worth of Cutting Edge Spy Systems to Saudi Arabia — Reports

    We know now that the world is moving online, there's so much of infrastructure online, and you can do so much damage to a nation and you can have a threat even of what you can even do to a nation if they threaten to attack you, so we're finding a lot of tools, and again, this was one of the most sophisticated malware tools/software that we've seen today, this particular software that was used for this particular attack on the network. So we've seen that this one of the most sophisticated softwares that we've seen today has come from a nation-state offensive cyber warfare team.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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