Belgium suffers major cyberattack

Belgium suffers major cyber-attack [Shutterstock/Pablo Lagarto]

Belgium suffered a major cyberattack on Tuesday, Belgian media reported, affecting many of its key institutions. It’s origin is still unknown.

Belnet’s internet network, which connects public institutions, higher education and university establishments, research centres and public administrations, has been the target of a large-scale denial-of-service (DDoS) attack since 12pm on Tuesday, spokeswoman Davina Luyten said. A DDoS attack is when a third party overloads servers by sending them a large amount of data.

Although DDoS attacks happen regularly, this one was of a scale which reportedly completely exceeded the capacity of the Belnet network.

About 200 organisations were reportedly affected, with a number of parliamentary committees  canceled because of the attack. The parliament of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation was also forced to suspend its committee work.

“Due to the health situation, some of the parliamentarians intervene remotely via the Cisco Webex system, but the internet connection problem generated by the cyberattack does not guarantee the continuation of the debates”, the parliament said in a statement.

Online reservation systems for vaccination centres were also affected in the early afternoon, before being restored.

Belnet has said it is too early to speculate on the origin of the attack.

Cyberattacks are often motivated by the desire to make money or “crash the system, run ransomware,” Olivier Bogaert, cybersecurity specialist at Belgium’s Computer Crime Unit, explained.

It can also be to “collect data, spy on a company and sell the data to a third-party company that works in the same field,” or it may be “states which may seek to destabilise IT infrastructures to create pressure,” he said.

According to RTBF, the Belgian Parliament’s Committee on External Relations was to conduct an unprecedented hearing on the situation of Uyghurs in China with the participation of a witness of the atrocities. The session had to be canceled.

Green MP Wouter De Vriendt suggested that China may well be behind the attack.

“Conclusions about the cyber attack are premature. But it is important to identify this sensitive context. Denying that is naive,” he said.

(Georgi Gotev, EURACTIV.com)

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