Serious cyber attack targets EU institutions on eve of summit

Today is the first day of the first EU summit that takes place under the Hungarian presidency, and European leaders have gathered in Brussels to discuss matters such as the rising European debt crisis and the Libyan unrest and the subsequent military action.

But on the very eve of the summit, an unexpected occurrence cast a dark shadow over the event. The BBC reports that the European Commission and the External Action Service – the Community’s diplomatic arm – have been hit by a “serious” cyber attack.

So far, details about the attack have not been divulged.

“We are already taking urgent measures to tackle this. An inquiry’s been launched. This isn’t unusual as the commission is frequently targeted,” said EU spokesman Anthony Gravali.

An anonymous source confirms: “We’re often hit by cyber attacks but this is a big one.” Other sources compare the attack to the recently revealed one that targeted the computers of the French Ministry of Finance, when more than 150 machines were compromised.

Even though Gravali says that the European Commission will not speculate on the origin of the attacks, the similarities raise the possibility that the attackers could be the same ones that targeted the French. At the time, internal sources said that some of the files were redirected to Chinese sites, but they conceded that this fact doesn’t say much.

The entire European Commission staff has been asked to change their passwords and to make sure to exchange information via secure email systems. The Commission has also shut down external access to email and the Comission’s intranet, so that unauthorized information doesn’t leak out.

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