The OSCE organization was victim of a major cyber attack

Pierluigi Paganini December 29, 2016

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed to have suffered suffer a “major” cyber attack.

Hackers targeted the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the news was confirmed on Wednesday by a spokeswoman for the organization.

The OSCE is a security and human rights watchdog, clearly the attack is part of a cyber espionage operation, unfortunately, the organization confirmed that it did not have the capability to investigate the incident.

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, Russian hackers are responsible for the attack.

“There was an attack. We found out about it at the beginning of November,” the OSCE spokeswoman Mersiha Causevic Podzic told AFP. 

“The systems are safe now. We were given entirely new security systems and passwords,” she added.

The cyber attack “compromised the confidentiality” of the OSCE IT network and put “its integrity at risk,” fortunately the organization was still able to operate.

According to an unnamed Western intelligence source quoted by Le Monde, the attack was powered once again by the Russian APT group known as APT28 (aka known as Fancy BearAPT 28Pawn StormSednit or Sofacy).  The group is considered by security experts the responsible of numerous cyber attacks against the 2016 US Presidential Election.

The spokeswoman at the OSCE avoided commenting the attribution of the attack suffered by its organization. The organization wants to avoid any “speculation” that APT28 may have launched the cyber attack.

“But we don’t have the capacity to conduct such an investigation and we don’t want to speculate,” she said.

The OSCE said “the way in which the attacker accessed the OSCE was identified, as have some of the external communication destinations”.

France’s ambassador to the OSCE tried to downplay the dangers for the organization explaining that officials in Vienna are trained to avoid being victims of cyber attacks.

“Diplomats at the OSCE are warned that attempted spying, in whatever form, are part and parcel of this organisation,” Veronique Roger-Lacan told AFP.

The OSCE is composed of 57 members from North America, Europe, and Asia, including Russia and also Ukraine.

“The OSCE works for stability, peace and democracy for more than a billion people, through political dialogue about shared values and through practical work that aims to make a lasting difference.” reads the mission of the organization. “With its Institutions, expert units and network of field operations, the OSCE addresses issues that have an impact on our common security, including arms control, terrorism, good governance, energy security, human trafficking, democratization, media freedom and national minorities.”

The organization is known for its role of an observer in elections and for its role in Ukraine. The OSCE was tasked to monitor a ceasefire agreement to end fighting between Ukrainian and Russian separatists, it currently employed 700 monitors focused on the dispute in the eastern Ukraine.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – OSCE, APT28)

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