A coordinated cyber-attack has been carried out against Belgium’s parliament, scientific institutions, police services, and universities.
Internet service provider Belnet, which serves the country’s government agencies, fell victim to what it described as a “large-scale attack” on Tuesday.
At around 11:00am CEST, the company was hit by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that overloaded its servers, preventing the availability of online services. Websites with .be domains were impacted.
As a result of the hack, around 200 Belnet customers lost internet access, either partially or totally. News outlet VRT was among the organizations affected.
“The attack is still in progress and takes place in successive waves,” Belnet said in an update on Wednesday morning.
“Our teams are working hard to mitigate them. We are constantly monitoring our network to counter any new attempts.”
Belnet said that no data had been stolen or exfiltrated during the attack and that no personal information had been compromised.
Some websites, including the official site of the City of Brussels, remain down, while others, including the site for the Brussels Police, are back online.
The attack disrupted the workings of the Belgian parliament, causing several meetings to be postponed. Distance learning at some universities and colleges was impacted by unstable connections.
The Brussels Times reports that local transit company STIB had issues with ticket sales because of the attack.
Belgian member of parliament Wouter De Vriendt observed that the cyber-attack coincided with Uighur concentration camp witness Qelbinur Sidiq appearing in the Chamber to publicly give testimony for the first time about the abuse of Uighur minorities by the People’s Republic of China.
“Conclusions about the cyber-attack are premature. But it is important to identify that sensitive context. Denying that is naïve,” said De Vriendt.
Belnet is working to determine who is behind the massive surge in data flow.
“We cannot expect to know tomorrow who is behind it,” said Belnet director Dirk Haex. “It is a very complex analysis that has to be done.”
Commenting on the attack, Nominet government cybersecurity expert Steve Forbes said: “The DDoS attack against Belgium’s government IT network shows how a relatively rudimentary attack can have a serious impact on a national scale.”