31 Mar, 2021 @ 16:15
2 mins read

Spain’s job centre cyber attack the work of Russian criminals says investigation, but no Kremlin ties found


THE Ransomware attack on Spain’s employment office (SEPE) has been found to be the work of Russian cyber criminals according to results from an official investigation.

Earlier this month, the entire employment office computer system was hacked using a sophisticated virus known as ransomware called Ryuk.

The attack locked the entire system of the agency, with hackers demanding a financial ‘ransom’ in return for releasing it.

The news was revealed on March 9 when SEPE sent a message on its social media platforms that the online system was ‘not available due to circumstances beyond our control’.

Later that day, the Ministry of Labour nd Social Economy, lead by Yolanda Diaz, released a statement that the system had been subjected to a cyber attack and that the agency is working hard to return their systems to normal.

Whilst the system was offline, SEPE put on extra face to face service operators and opened a 060 helpline for anyone still wishing to access the service.

SEPE are currently dealing with hundreds of thousands of unemployment benefits and even more applications pending.

However a spokesperson from the agency said that these applications will not be affected and for anyone waiting to receive notifications should be patient.

An investigation by the National Intelligence Centre (CNI) found that the servers responsible for the attack were based in Russia and belong to a known criminal organisation.

The gang appeared to use so called ‘hit-men’, and hired the services of hackers from other countries to carry out their work, causing identification of specific individuals difficult.

During the investigation, officials were concerned that rising political tensions between Spain and Russia could be the catalyst for the attacks, with claims that the Kremlin was trying to destablise the infrastructure of Spain.

The catalyst of these fears appears to be Spain’s greater military presence in Russian and Eastern European territory.

Spain currently has two frigates and a mine hunter operating in the Black sea, as well as six Eurofighters monitoring Russian airspace as part of a UN pact.

300 Troops have also been deployed in Lativa whilst Josep Borrell, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Europe has recently imposed severe sanctions of Russia for the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalni.

The Spanish armed forces have denied that any of these deployments are anything out of the ordinary, however insiders close to the government feared that the recent cyber attack was a warning shot to pull back.

Various Spanish media outlets promoted the narrative, however further research from the CNI has debunked any Kremlin involvement, placing the blame on an independent cyber criminal gang.

Currently the SEPE agency are processing ERTE payments and applications manually, and are asking for telephone number sin case they need further information from applicants.

Workers unions representing SEPE have denounced the situation claiing it was an event that was waiting to happen.

“For months we have been asking for decisive support in technological investment, since the applications and computer systems we use have an average age of about 30 years.” said the union.

James Warren

"James spent three years spent working as a junior writer at various English language newspapers in Spain before finding a home at the Olive Press. He previously worked for many years as a bid writer for an international motorsports company. Based in Cordoba since 2014, James covers the southern Subbetica region, northern and inland Malaga and the Axarquia area. Get in touch at newsdesk@theolivepress.es with news or trustworthy tips that you would like him to cover in these areas"

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