A hacked EP

The long line of people standing with their phones, tablets and laptops at the Parliament’s IT help-centre might give the false impression; there are no rewards, or upgrades.
The staff queuing are simply trying to regain the ability to use the Parliament’s WI-FI network after it has been shut down during the weekend.

The WI-FI “commodity” that was used by Members, our staff and visitors in all of the Parliament’s public spaces, is no longer accessible after a hacker last Thursday (21 November) broke into the Parliament’s WI-FI network.

According to the French “Mediapart”, the hacker used “a few bits of knowledge that everyone is capable of finding on the internet” to access confidential emails and personal files of MEPs, assistants and the institution’s IT experts.

Although this is the first time the Parliament’s has publicly suffered a cyber-security problem, in times of global espionage, this incident must sound an urgent warning alert to our institution.

There are many issues involved in this episode that personally trouble me. First concerns the standards of safety of our IT system. We completely rely on the Parliament’s technological infrastructure to fulfil our mandate as legislators. Risking a breach of data is simply not an option. If we were to go back to the age of paper, our ability to properly work would be jeopardized by sluggish and time-consuming elements.

Second, the reaction of the house’ IT services must also be put into question. In light of the incident the IT unit decided to switch-off the public Wi-Fi network until further notice, instead inviting staff and users to have an EP software installed on their devices to access a private EP network.

Now, with 766 MEPs, about 5000 staff and others, who are not included in these two categories, you can imagine the chaotic lines outside the IT help-centre, which are certain only to grow longer.

Moreover, the installation of the EP certificate means that our device is now registered and identified according to the user. That in plain words means that connecting to the EP WI-FI network is now monitored and tracked. What are the implications of this for our privacy?

In the aftermath of last week’s event we clearly see how much work is needed in order to ensure the safety of our virtual working environment, while also guaranteeing our personal privacy.

Greetings from the European Parliament,

Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg

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