EU anti-fraud network EUROFISC hacked in Bulgaria

Deputy chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev. [Nadejda Chipeva, Capital]

Hackers in Bulgaria have obtained access to huge amounts of information, including files from the EU’s anti-fraud network EUROFISC. The Commission has confirmed to EURACTIV on Thursday (25 July) that it is monitoring the ongoing situation.

Prosecutors have charged two workers at a cybersecurity company with terrorism as part of an investigation into Bulgaria’s biggest-ever data breach.

Two charged with ‘terrorism’ over Bulgaria's biggest data breach

Prosecutors have charged two workers at a cybersecurity company with terrorism as part of an investigation into Bulgaria’s biggest-ever data breach, a lawyer for the defendants said on Wednesday (24 July).

The hackers also got hold of the personal data of 5 million Bulgarian nationals contained in the database of the national tax authority, as well as other databases. Some files contain information about the bank accounts of Bulgarian nationals abroad.

Deputy chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev said on Thursday that one of the databases included the email addresses and passwords of 500,000 users of a popular Bulgarian email service provider. He also said that it was confirmed that the hackers had opened the email account of people of interest for them.

One of the most sensitive databases hacked appears to be EUROFISC, a mechanism provided for member states for quick and targeted sharing of information in combating organised VAT fraud and especially carousel fraud. This antifraud system was put in place in 2012.

Commission moves to clamp down on tax evasion

A new blueprint to improve the fight against tax dodging in the EU was issued by the Commission yesterday (31 July) to improve pan-European information exchange, compliance and tackling tax evasion and fraud.

Asked by EURACTIV to comment, Commission spokesperson Johannes Bahrke said the EU executive was aware of the reports and was in contact with the Bulgarian authorities.

“This is a matter for them. The Commission has notified all member states of the data leak. We will continue to monitor the situation”, he said.

Fingers crossed

EURACTIV understands that the Commission does not have information about the actual content of the information exchanged under EUROFISC, nor access to the VAT-related data exchanged between the member states.

What remains for the EU executive is only to keep its fingers crossed that the Bulgarian authorities will inform other member states’ tax authorities in case sensitive data that concerns them has been leaked.

Conversely, member states could investigate the leak themselves, as the leak has been made semi-public and the hackers have sent the documents to all major media. EURACTIV has access to the information via journalists in Bulgaria.

The attacks are bad news for Bulgaria also in the context of its bid to join Schengen, an organisation with a highly sensitive database.

Why ‘terrorism’?

The Bulgarian prosecution qualifies the hack as “terrorism” because it claims that it was made to instigate fear and panic among the population. A specialised website has been opened where every Bulgarian national can check if information concerning him has been made public.

Bulgaria has been shattered by a series of corruption scandals lately. One of them, called “apartment-gate’, was based on revelations about the real estate property of people in high positions. In this context, a rumour was circulating that the next scandal would concern the possessions of Bulgarian politicians abroad.

Bulgaria’s Borissov wins despite scandals

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party (EPP-affiliated) won the European elections on Sunday (26 May), despite a number of scandals in which it was involved in recent months.

Edited by Samuel Stolton

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