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Specialised police unit investigating Tuesday’s cyberattack

The Computer Crime Unit, a specialised unit of Belgium’s Federal Police Service, has launched an investigation into to Tuesday’s cyberattack. The attack on the Belnet network saw scores of government, university, police and other public service sites, including that of the VRT, either go off-line or be severely slowed down. 

Although the situation had improved significantly by Wednesday morning some sites such as that of the City of Brussels were still down.

On Wednesday morning Belnet said in a statement that “The attack is still in progress and is taking place in successive waves. Our teams are working hard to mitigate them. We are constantly monitoring our network to counter any new attempts.”

On Tuesday the cyberattack caused issues for students at several universities and colleges of higher education that are being taught through distance learning methods. The Brussels public transport company MIVB was unable to issue tickets through its vending machines and the gates that control access to the Brussels Metro were left open. The cyber attack also lead to a number of committee meetings in the Federal Parliament being cancelled.

The attack is a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. A DDos attack occurs when a targeted system’s bandwidth capacity is flooded with a multitude of useless requests. This causes sites either to slow to a snail’s pace or to fail to load altogether.

The attack is unprecedented. “Belnet was founded in 1993. It is the first time that we have been confronted with such a gigantic data flow”, Belnet’s Director Dirk Haex said

“We cannot expect to know tomorrow who is behind it. It is a very complex analysis that has to be done,” Mr Haex added.

Belnet filed a complaint with the Federal Computer Crime Unit against the as yet unknown perpetrators of the cyberattack on Tuesday.

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