Hackers accessed the European Union’s diplomatic communications network for years, downloading cables that reveal concerns about the Trump administration, struggles to deal with Russia and China and the risk of Iran reviving its nuclear program, the New York Times reported late on Tuesday.
More than 1,100 cables were supplied to the Times by security firm Area 1 after it discovered the breach, the newspaper said, adding that Area 1 investigators believed the hackers worked for the China’s People’s Liberation Army.
The NYT report that “the cables were exposed after a run-of-the-mill phishing campaign aimed at diplomats in Cyprus pierced the island nation’s systems,” said Oren Falkowitz, the chief executive of Area 1.
“People talk about sophisticated hackers, but there was nothing really sophisticated about this,” Mr. Falkowitz said. After getting into the Cyprus system, the hackers had access to passwords that were needed to connect to the European Union’s entire database of exchanges.
The cables include memorandums of conversations with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries that were shared across the European Union, according to the report.
One cable, the Times said, shows European diplomats describing a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Finland as “successful (at least for Putin).”
Another, written after a July 16 meeting, relayed a detailed report and analysis of talks between European officials and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was quoted comparing Trump’s “bullying” of Beijing to a “no-rules freestyle boxing match.”
A third, from March 7, shows Caroline Vicini, the deputy head of the EU mission in Washington, recommending the trade bloc’s diplomats to describe the United States as “our most important partner” even as it challenged Trump “in areas where we disagreed with the U.S. (e.g., on climate, trade, Iran nuclear deal).”
The hackers also infiltrated the networks of the United Nations, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and ministries of foreign affairs and finance worldwide, the report added.
(With information from NYT and Reuters)