Hundreds of Secret NATO Documents Leaked, Sold on Dark Web

A raft of confidential and secret NATO documents was stolen and apparently sold on the dark web after a prolonged and unprecedented cyber attack on Portugal’s General Staff of the Armed Forces (EMGFA).

Portugal’s highest military body and the Portuguese government were not even aware of the cyberattack and the leak, which is considered extremely serious by the nation’s authorities until American intelligence officials alarmed them after discovering the classified documents were for sale on the dark web.

The notice of the discovery was sent directly to Portugal’s prime minister Antonio Costa, last August. Local media outlets reported on the breach Thursday. It remains unknown when the attack took place.

Refusing to comment on intelligence matters, the spokesperson for the US embassy in Lisbon would neither confirm nor deny the reports while several Portuguese government bodies refused to comment.

Prime Minister Costa’s spokesperson stressed that Portugal’s Defense Ministry and armed forces work continuously to ensure that Portugal’s credibility as a founding member of the Atlantic Alliance remains intact.

He noted that the situation is extensively analyzed, and all the procedures are implemented whenever there’s suspicion of a compromised cybersecurity network.

The comprehensive audit of the internal systems Portugal’s General Staff conducted has found that rules related to the secure transmission of classified documents had been broken and identified the computers from which the classified NATO documents were stolen.

The reports in this case also indicate that the cyberattack was committed by an undetectable bot network designed to detect classified information, was prolonged in time, and information was extracted in several phases.

Two Portuguese officials are to go to the NATO headquarters in Brussels for a high-level meeting next week after the Alliance has allegedly demanded explanations and guarantees from the Portuguese government.

This is the second time Portugal has been involved in a security breach related to NATO documents after Portuguese intelligence officer Frederico Carvalhao Gil was convicted of spying for Russia in 2018 after he was found selling classified NATO and EU documents to a Russian agent.

NATO was also investigating in late August a cyberattack of missile firm MBDA by unknown malicious actors who had later put on sale on the dark web blueprints of weapons used by Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.

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