Cypriot cyber security officials were scrambling after news reports unsecured servers and other lapses had allowed Chinese hackers to get into the island’s systems and breach diplomatic cables, with the European Union jumping in to investigate the matter.
The reported encroachment into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus had government officials trying to explain what happened and that it wasn’t as serious as portrayed, despite the damaging reports from the New York Times and financial news agency Bloomberg.
The media outlets said that EU diplomatic cables were compromised because of the lax security on Cyprus that let Chinese operates get a look at confidential information for the island and the 28-country bloc.
Diplomatic sources who weren’t identified told the Greek newspaper Kathimerini they were frustrated and angry over the reports that led the Cypriot government to call an emergency meeting of its Digital Security Authority.
Sources from the Cypriot Foreign Ministry said attacks have happened in the past and even several times. “For national security reasons, we will not be elaborating further,” they said in an apparent attempt to do damage control and say the breaches weren’t critical.
Steven Erlanger, Chief Diplomatic Correspondent in Europe for The New York Times and David Sanger, National Security Correspondent, cited Oren Falkowitz, the Chief Executive of cyber security firm Area 1, who said Chinese hackers infiltrated the Cyprus system, gaining access to passwords connected to the EU’s entire database of exchanges.
Bloomberg said the report came on the heels of the US government probing the operations of the Chinese telecom equipment company Huawei Technologies, which sells mobile phones around the world, and suspected of helping China use its devices to spy.
The US intelligence agencies warned people not to use phones from Huawei nor services provided by China’s ZTE, which makes modems in use in other countries, including Greece, where they were part of the Internet network of the country’s telecom operator OTE.