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Cyberattacks against Belgium nearly tripled in 2019

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More than 4,000 reports of cyberattacks against Belgian citizens and companies were made this year, a new high which nearly tripled 2018 figures.

Interim Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès said in parliament that Belgium’s Centre for Cyber Security (CCB), which she oversees, received 4,484 reports of cyber incidents or attacks this year, up from 1,600 in 2018, De Tijd reports.

A majority of the attacks are attempts of fraud, such as phishing or extorsion from “fake Microsoft employees,” CCB spokesperson Katrien Eggers told the business daily. “But there are also reports about hacked accounts and ransomware,” she added.

Wilmès said that federal police had also seen a 40% uptick in the number of reports of cybercrime in 2019, warning that it could only represent the “tip of the iceberg,” since not all incidents are systematically reported.

Despite the increase in the number of attacks targetting the country, Wilmès said that Belgium had made progress in its cybersecurity apparatus as well as in raising cyber safety awareness since the CCB in was created in 2014.

According to Wilmès, the CCB received nearly 8,000 daily reports of possible phishing emails in the month of October alone, which she said enabled the centre to block “dozens of phishing websites daily.”

“An early warning system has also been set up to identify the most important cyber threats,” Wilmès added, noting that Belgium had climbed to the fifth spot in a EU28 ranking by cybersecurity specialist Brightsite, up from the 11th spot last year.

A major incident in June saw aircraft manufacturer Asco fall prey to a ransomware attack which forced the company to put its staff off work for two days, citing a case of force majeure, and to lose millions, a company representative told De Tijd.

Questioned in parliament by Saint-Joos Mayor Emir Kir, Wilmès said that Belgium had not yet implemented a 2016 EU directive seeking to bolster the cyberdefenses of public services and infrastructure against possible attacks.

Wilmès said that while measures had already been taken to protect the infrastructure of the transport, energy, telecom and financial services sector, work still needed to be done to protect Belgium’s water supply and its public health infrastructure.

“But the delay certainly does not mean that these critical services in our country have are less cyber-secure than those in other European states,” Wilmès said, citing a 2011 law that ordered operators of these services to take steps to protect their infrastructure and to “immediately” report incidents impacting their activities.

“But the CCB has not yet received any notification,” she added.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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