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back to article Mid East undersea fibre telco hacked: US, UK spooks in spotlight

Belgian telco Belgacom - which operates vital undersea communications cables - says its internal network was compromised, possibly by foreign spooks. Phone and data connections from international hot spots, such as Syria and Yemen, pass through submarine fibre lines handled by Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS). …

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I'm guessing that this was totally legal too

Given GCHQ's definition of legal.

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Belgacom

Is that some sort of euphemism?

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Mushroom

Re: Belgacom

Their ISP branch used to be called skynet

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Re: Belgacom

The British Military Sat-Comm system is called SkyNet (at least some of those birds are still orbiting)

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All too easy......

..... to say "foreign spooks".

"The circumstances look that it might be cyber-espionage but it might be something completely unrelated."

So, what they seem to be saying is "actually, we don't know, it could be anything.". But point the easy finger at the quite target who won't confirm or deny anything, blame GCHQ because we /know/ they won't comment.

And as we know, for conspiracy people, no comment is as good as saying "we did it......".

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Re: All too easy......

" All too easy........... to say "foreign spooks"."

As Belgium is home to NATO's HQ, one has to assume that the country's security services would be receptive to US "security" requests. But the links NSA/GCHQ and to Belgacom's Middle East assets seems speculative - the hacking doesn't (on the article's coverage) necessarily mean that the attackers were after access to that particular data flow.

Equally possible that it could be US commercial or political spying on the EU, and it could be Russian or Chinese spying on either or both of NATO or the EU. And yes, I know NATO won't or shouldn't be using the PSTN, but I'll wager that there's still plenty of useful intel that does go over public networks.

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Thinking back

Weren't there a whole load of mysterious undersea cable breaks at the eastern end of the Med? I wonder if the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Jimmy_Carter_%28SSN-23%29 was playing games?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thinking back

Thank you for remembering those and saving me the trouble of looking them up.

Is there much reason to believe in coincidence any more?

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The problem

The agencies have brought it on themselves. By being exposed as hackers and probably involved in espionage they have painted a target on themselves for every hack and espionage detected.

When a windows computer starts misbehaving the common blame is a virus because it might be and viruses break stuff. Now when someone thinks they have been hacked or have been hacked they will think NSA or GCHQ because thats the kind of thing they would do. Even if its another country, random hacker or just a glitch.

Even better, all the hype over china spying and compromising computers stirred up by the US is back to haunt them. China might be suspect but NSA and GCHQ definitely do.

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Black Helicopters

Re: The problem

The agencies have brought it on themselves. By being exposed as hackers and probably involved in espionage they have painted a target on themselves for every hack and espionage detected.

Well, that's true of the agencies we know about, but they're probably just fake fronts to take the heat for the real ones.

There, do I get my Conspiracy Theorist badge now?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The problem

..........There, do I get my Conspiracy Theorist badge now?.................

No because you are obviously a mole trying to plant misinformation.

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Wait for the comment from the Foreign Office

'We do not comment on security matters (except when it suits us)'

That is an admission of guilt.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Wait for the comment from the Foreign Office

I only ever believe anything when it has been officially denied.

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M7S
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A bit of a rum do.

What will happen if one NATO country (or perhaps more) is found to have effectively conducted a damaging electronic attack on the infrastructure or commercial interests of another NATO country? If the attackee really kicks up a stink (and given that the EU has ambitions to subvert and replace NATO) this could prove really quite awkward.

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Re: A bit of a rum do.

They'll say sorry, and blame it on an over-zealous underlying who doesn't even exist but will be fired and disgraced.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A bit of a rum do.

About time.

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Re: A bit of a rum do.

" If the attackee really kicks up a stink (and given that the EU has ambitions to subvert and replace NATO) this could prove really quite awkward."

I doubt it. These things are notoriously difficult to trace and prove, with much use of routing through middle of nowhere countries, and obfuscation of the code to include "pointers" to anybody you like. If you're a Russian programmer looking to write some APT code, then you could put some Chinese commenting in it, or fragments of known Chinese spyware, hoping that if detected people will blame China. Or you could add in known Russian spyware fragments in the hope that they'd assume that was too obvious, and therefore it had to be the Chinese. Or you could set it up to send some traffic to server with a domain known to be under the control of some other security service, even if the IP address has never been used... A million and one ways to avoid being caught, and to blame other people.

The EU does around $150bn of trade with the US, and has a $70bn a year trade surplus on the relationship - they can't afford to give that up. The EU is dependent upon Russian gas in winter, so they won't kick up a stink there. And the EU export €150bn to China, and import double that. Which leads me to the view that with limited proof I can't see the indecisive dullards of the EU taking decisive and exciting action on incomplete evidence, against a major trading partner.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A bit of a rum do.

What will happen if one NATO country (or perhaps more) is found to have effectively conducted a damaging electronic attack on the infrastructure or commercial interests of another NATO country?

AFAIK, it's called business as usual.

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Black Helicopters

Under Investigation by Law Enforcement

It's nice that this is under investigation and all. Not that I expect it to amount to anything. It'll almost certainly be a 'big misunderstanding'... The words of Dennis Dayle, former CENTAC Chief for the DEA, seem quite relevant.

"In my 30 year history in the Drug Enforcement Administration and related agencies, the major target of my investigations almost invariably turned out the be working for the CIA"

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Re: Under Investigation by Law Enforcement

Tortuous thinking leads to the conclusion that Dennis Dayle was a (reluctant ?) recruiting agent for the CIA.

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Re: Under Investigation by Law Enforcement

Haha. Join the CIA; free drugs, a top spot in a global narcotics distribution network and immunity from prosecution for each new recruit that lives through their probationary period!

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I wonder

.. how much of this would bubble to the surface were it not for one man taking a massive personal risk.

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Re: I wonder

Twelve years of silence kind of speaks for itself; no?

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