Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned his cabinet Friday to beef up online security after a journalist logged into a confidential EU videoconference using information posted on a minister’s Twitter account.
RTL Nieuws said reporter Daniel Verlaan logged into a secure meeting of European defence ministers after getting a login address and partial pin code off a picture posted of Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld.
Bijleveld is in quarantine and working from home in the picture in which documents on her desk could be seen, private broadcaster RTL Nieuws said.
The intrepid journalist discovered five of the six digits of the pin code and “shortly afterwards gained access to the meeting,” RTL said.
Footage showed a smiling Verlaan, dressed in a black T-shirt and waving to the different ministers.
nieuws: ik kreeg toegang tot een geheim online overleg tussen de Europese ministers van Defensie van de 27 landen.
— Daniël Verlaan (@danielverlaan) November 20, 2020
“You know you have been jumping into a secret conference?” EU foreign affairs and security policy boss Josep Borrell then told Verlaan.
“Yes, yes, I’m sorry. I’m a journalist from the Netherlands,” Verlaan replied as laughter from other participants can be heard in the background.
“I’m sorry for interrupting your conference, I’ll be leaving,” Verlaan said before being told “this is a criminal offence, you better shut off before the police arrive.”
RTL said Verlaan indeed shortly afterwards left the conference, which was then immediately cancelled for security reasons.
The incident showed that “ministers once again must realise how careful” they have to be on Twitter, Rutte told journalists at his weekly post-cabinet press conference.
The offending picture in the meantime had been removed, a Dutch Defence Ministry official told RTL.
“It was a stupid mistake. But it just goes to show that you must pay attention when you send an image of a meeting,” the official said.
An EU diplomatic official told AFP the meeting was cut short immediately afterwards and that the continental body gave online security the utmost priority.
“There may have been laughter, but the incident is considered as very serious,” the official said.