It Only Takes 1 Phish: “Unremarkable” Phishing Attack Results in a Breach in the European Union’s Diplomatic Communications Network

Image Courtesy Dreamtimes.comA three-year-long cyber-attack led to the successful breach of the all communications between all EU member states, putting countries and their futures at risk.

The EU’s diplomatic network is a secure means by which member states can exchange some of the world’s most sensitive information – literally having impacts on a geopolitical scale. A report by antiphishing vendor Area 1 Security highlights the attack targeting this network, attributing it to the Strategic Support Force (SSF) of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China.

The SSF focused its efforts on the weakest link in the chain – in this case, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Cyprus. Through what Area 1 refers to as “technically unremarkable” attack techniques, a simple phishing scam was all that was needed to compromised the network, giving China access to details that can be used to either expose, embarrass, or take advantage of themselves.

This is one of those stories you can’t help shake your head at. With the criticality of the data and the secrecy required around it’s communication, one would think every point of access within this diplomatic network would have more than appropriate security measures in place.

A focus on training employees (via Security Awareness Training) to be on the lookout for phishing emails, social engineering tactics, and suspicious links or attachments is all that was needed to thwart this kind of data breach.

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