Experts found information of European politicians on the dark web

Pierluigi Paganini June 03, 2024

Personal information of hundreds of British and EU politicians is available on dark web marketplaces.

According to research conducted by Proton and Constella Intelligence, the email addresses and other sensitive information of 918 British MPs, European Parliament members, and French deputies and senators are available in the dark web marketplaces. 40% of 2,280 official government email addresses from the British, European, and French Parliaments were exposed, including passwords, birth dates, and other details.

Most leaked data email addresses belong to British MPs (68%), followed by EU MEPs (44%).

politicians data dark web

The researchers pointed out that French deputies and senators had the best security, with only 18% of searched emails in cybercrime forums and dark marketplaces.

Many of these MPs, MEPs, deputies, and senators hold senior positions, including heads of committees, government ministers, and senior opposition leaders. These politicians have access to highly sensitive information, and particularly alarming is that several of them are currently, or have previously been, members of committees tasked with overseeing and enforcing national and international digital strategies.

The presence of the emails on dark web shows that politicians used their official emails to create an account on third-party web services that suffered a data breach.

“The fact that these emails, which are publicly available on government websites, are on the dark web isn’t a security failure by itself. Nor is it evidence of a hack of the British, European, or French parliaments.” reads the report. “Instead, it shows that politicians used their official email addresses to set up accounts on third-party websites (which were later hacked or suffered a breach), putting themselves and the information they’re entrusted to keep safe needlessly at risk.” 

Even more concerning is that researchers were able to match these email addresses with 697 plain text passwords. The experts notified impacted politician, they pointed out that if a politician reused one of these exposed passwords for their official email account, it could also be at risk.

politicians data dark web

It’s a miracle if British MPs were not involved in major scandals due to account takeovers, because 68% of searched email addresses were found on the dark web, including senior figures from both the government and the opposition. MPs’ email addresses were exposed a total of 2,110 times on the dark web, the researchers noticed that the most frequently targeted MP experiencing up to 30 breaches. On average, breached MPs had their details show up in 4.7 breaches.

The member of the European Parliament experienced fewer breaches compared to their British counterparts, but nearly half of the emails searched were found on the dark web. Out of 309 MEPs exposed, 92 were involved in 10 or more leaks. EU politicians had their email addresses exposed 2,311 times, along with 161 plaintext passwords. This raises concerns, as the European Parliament has increasingly become a target of state-sponsored attacks and acknowledges its lack of preparedness.

Impacted politicians have used their official email addressed to create accounts several sites, including LinkedIn, Adobe, Dropbox, Dailymotion, petition websites, news services, and even, in a small number of cases, dating websites.

“Even if a hostile takeover of one of these accounts won’t grant an attacker (or foreign government) access to state secrets, it could reveal that politician’s private communications or other sensitive data. Attackers could then use this information to phish or blackmail the politicians.” concludes the report.

“And this is the best possible scenario. If a breached politician reused a password that was exposed on the dark web on one of their official accounts (and failed to use two-factor authentication), it could let attackers into government systems. “

Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook and Mastodon

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, dark web)

you might also like

leave a comment