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EU official’s computers hacked in Azerbaijan visit

13 Nov 2012
Security threats - password theft

Officials from the European Commission (EC) believe their computers may have been hacked during a visit to Azerbaijan by the region's vice president for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.

Kroes was in the country to attend the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Baku over the weekend, to discuss a number of issues including media and online freedoms.

However, she was left frustrated by the unwillingness of the local authorities to provide access to political prisoners and revealed some staff members had their laptops attacked.

"I was denied access to meet political prisoners, despite a commitment from the president himself. Activists were harassed at the internet conference. My advisers had their computers hacked. So much for openness," she wrote on a blog.

The hacked computers belonged to Kroes' representative Ryan Heath. He subsequently told AP that he received a warning from Apple saying someone was trying to access his device without authorisation.

"I'm presuming it was some kind of surveillance," he said in a telephone interview, AP reported.

"What we're going to do is to get the computers forensically analysed to see what if anything was taken out of them."

Heath subsequently told V3 that no sensitive data was at risk during the incident and the EC is awaiting the results of the analyse before commenting further.

However, Kroes' and Heath's claims were dismissed by the head of Azerbaijani presidential administration for its social and political department, Ali Hasanov, who told local news organisation Trend they were without merit.

"Any interference into their computers is out of the question, no evidence and facts confirming these statements have been revealed."

"This accusation was simply made to harm authority of Azerbaijani state and image of organisers of the Seventh International Internet Governance Forum."

Despite this the incident raises more questions over the importance of strong security on business devices when in use overseas, particularly if they do contain sensitive data.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

View Dan's Google+ profile

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