Belgium’s largest telecom provider, Belgacom, was reportedly hacked by the National Security Agency (NSA) for several years, according to Belgian national newspaper De Standard on Monday.
While Belgacom has issued a statement saying that the company had successfully cleansed its internal network of "an unknown virus in a number of units in our internal IT-system”, it made no mention of who was responsible for it.
The unknown virus was found in the internal IT systems after a security check at Belgacom.. De Standard, the Belgian publication believes the main target of the hack was not Belgacom but one of subsidiaries, Belgacom International Carrier Services (BICS), which handles telecommunication traffic with companies in the Middle East and Africa.
While Belgacom has been very careful in revealing any information of the hackers, De Standard suggests that there is ‘little doubt’ that the NSA is responsible. If the suspicions are accurate, it would add to the mounting criticism surrounding the United States’ unchecked surveillance both nationally and internationally. The matter becomes all the more politically sensitive since the Belgian government is the main shareholder of the hacked company.
Belgacom released an official statement saying the data of its customers was safe and measures were taken to prevent any such future incidents.
Former NSA employee Edward Snowden disclosed last month that the US government spied on European diplomatic offices, the Brazilian government, and the Brazilian oil company, Petrobras among many others. The revelations also refreshed privacy concerns as well as the worldwide debate over how commonplace it has become for the US to hack different countries to acquire sensitive data.
On September 15, German news outlet Spiegel Online cited documents revealing the NSA monitored major credit card companies like VISA for surveillance in order to gain access to transactions by customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Snowden’s leaks emerge frequently but it is disturbing how the NSA has not been held accountable for any of the alleged security intrusions both internally and internationally. After all, the data which is unlawfully intercepted by US intelligence and NSA includes sensitive personal information, much of which is not about the NSA ‘targets.’