China hacks computer of Belgium's foreign affairs committee chair

The chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee was hacked by Chinese hackers in 2021, Het Nieuwsblad reports. This is according to an FBI report. As early as 2021, there have been suspicions that there was an issue with the laptop of Els Van Hoof. However, after a check by State Security, no further action was taken.

Now, however, an FBI report has surfaced in a lawsuit against seven Chinese people, showing that Chinese spies accessed Van Hoof's laptop via an email. The seven are accused of spying not only on Americans but also on members of IPAC, an international association of parliamentarians working on human rights in China and thus a thorn in the side of the Chinese regime. Both Van Hoof and her vice-chair, Samuel Cogolati, are members of that association. They both opened the hackers' emails in 2021.

The impact of the attack remains unclear. According to the FBI report, the Chinese hackers were able to get the IP address of the laptops. This would mean that they have been able to track the victims' laptops since 2021. 

Van Hoof, of Flemish Christian democrats CD&V, reacted with dismay to the news and is now calling for the creation of a security office in the Chamber. This could, in cooperation with State Security, give security briefings to MPs and permanently update them on digital security.


Els Van Hoof during a plenary session of the Chamber at the Federal Parliament © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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