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An intruder invites himself to the meeting of EU defense ministers. Fun and embarrassment guaranteed

(B2) A Dutch journalist managed to get into the meeting of defense ministers this Friday (20.11) without much difficulty. A good bit of fun… but not for everyone

RTL journalist Daniel Verlaan (top right) waves to the assembled EU defense ministers (credit: RTLNieuws/Daniel Verlaan)

A blunder from the Dutch minister

It all starts with a monumental blunder. On her Twitter account, Dutch Defense Minister Anlk Bijleveld – or a member of her team according to the Dutch government – ​​posts a photo where we can see 5 of the 6 digits of the PIN code allowing entry into the Zoom meeting. A " accident » assures the Ministry of Defense. The photo has since been removed. But Daniël Verlan, journalist specializing in 'tech' for the Dutch media RTL News, had time to see the information...

…followed by a security failure

The journalist takes a screen shot and quickly guesses the missing number. Especially since the user code is not rocket science. A simple 'admin' works. And, quite simply, he shows up in the middle of a meeting, while the discussion between the ministers is in full swing.

A little masterful hello in a meeting

Then follows, between the journalist and the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, who leads the meeting, a dialogue worthy of a Buñuel film.

- " Someone has entered the system. We must stop the meeting… we are working on the public stage there », alerts Josep Borrell, who tries to speak directly to the intruder.

« How are you ? »he asks, in a playful tone, barely suppressing a smile. We hear a few bursts of laughter in the meeting.

- " Hello. Thanks, I'm fine “, replies, hilarious, Daniël Verlan.

- " Who are you ? Do you know that you walked into a secret meeting of defense ministers? You know, it's a crime eh! (Josep Borrell)

« Yes I know. I am a journalist from the Netherlands. I'm sorry for disturbing your meeting. Thank you for... I'm going to go! (Daniel Verlan)

« Yes, it would be better to leave quickly, before the police arrive huh », concluded Josep Borrell, in a paternal tone, barely suppressing a smile towards this impetuous 'youngster' who could be his grandson.

A lightning intrusion…

The journalist claims to have only stayed a few minutes in the meeting, and to have immediately turned on his camera and microphone so that his presence could be detected… But the result is astonishing. “ I myself was a little shocked that it worked. I didn't expect there to be no other form of security or validation “says the journalist on twitter.

With a major consequence

The following ? The journalist does not tell it. But B2 learned it from a good source. The meeting was stopped. And the press conference of the High Representative of the EU was brought forward by half an hour on schedule. “ This resulted in the immediate cessation of work », confirmed to B2 a participant in the meeting. Without really creating any damage, according to him. The essentials had been said. “ The meeting was over. » Regardless, our Dutch colleague has put his finger on a sensitive point.

A real problem

In European circles, this is not the time for open laughter. And the embarrassment in the face of such an intrusion is clear. “ This shows how careful you have to be with this kind of meeting. A meeting of defense ministers is never innocent “, thus conceded to RTL News the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, before trying to reassure himself in the face of his minister's (big) dumpling. “ The only side effect, positive, that A. Bijleveld pointed out to other ministers, is how careful you have to be. »

Strengthen communications security

« We need a major strengthening of communications security a diplomat told B2. Work " is launched ”, we specify. This issue of securing internal communications was also addressed at the highest level during a European Council last year (in June 2019). The heads of state and government (who were still 28 at the time) had asked the European institutions to work on the subject to strengthen security. The head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell said no better during the meeting, addressing the president of the military committee, General Claudio Graziano: “ General, you are right. Invest in communication systems ».

In videoconference, please do not discuss top secret matters

As a precaution, moreover, during this meeting (as during other meetings by videoconference), several ministers saw fit not to discuss subjects considered too confidential. “ The lines were not secure “, confirms our interlocutor. We avoid talking about topics that are too confidential. Thereby " we did not talk specifically about threat analysis », a 'classified' document from European intelligence services.

The Covid-19 boon for spies of all kinds

Everyone knows that in the case of videoconferences which have become widespread with the coronavirus crisis, the possibilities of hacking or eavesdropping are multiplied. Video conferences are “ a boon », Confided to us a few months ago, a specialist in the field, for all that Brussels has spies of all kinds (Chinese, Russians, etc.).

(Leonor Hubaut, with Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Leonor Hubaut

© B2 - Bruxelles2 is a French online media that focuses on political Europe (powers, defence, foreign policy, internal security). It follows and analyzes developments in European policy, unvarnished and without concessions. Approved by the CPPAP. Member of SPIIL. Please quote "B2" or "Bruxelles2" in case of recovery Leonor Hubaut is a journalist. Graduated in international relations from the Free University of Brussels (specialization in globalization). She covers for B2 the work of the European Parliament, CSDP missions and African issues. Sahel specialist.