The operation had a codename “Operation Socialist” and was conducted by the British intelligence service GCHQ, the Guardian reported. Belgian Justice minister, Koen Geens, has confirmed that he received the report from the prosecutors and would discuss it with country’s national security council, led by Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
According to the federal prosecutors, the interception of Belgacom, country’s biggest telecommunications operator, had been conducted since at least 2011 and was closed in a matter of minutes of being exposed in August 2013. The slides with the evidence of GCHQ operations were leaked by the CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who exposed such targets of hacking as NATO headquarters in Brussels, European Commission, European Parliament, and the European Council five years ago. Elio di Rupo, the Belgian prime minister in 2013, promised to take “the appropriate steps” if the “high-level involvement” of a foreign country was confirmed.
The British spies allegedly targeted the computers of Belgacom employees working in security and maintenance by using faked LinkedIn messages. The espionage was focused mostly on the company’s subsidiary unit, Belgacom International Carrier Services, which operates phone and data traffic in Africa and the Middle East. It was also reported to seek targeted communications between roaming smartphones.
A spokesperson for the federal prosecutor confirmed that the report exists, yet declined to comment on the matter, saying that the situation is “too delicate right now”. GCHQ has also declined to comment.
Earlier this month European court of human rights ruled that the methods used by GCHQ to bulk interceptions of online communications violated privacy, granted under the article 8 of the European convention on human rights, saying that the safeguards for such interceptions were “insufficient” with an inadequate selection of “related communications data”.