Feeds

NSA, GCHQ, accused of hacking Belgian smartcard crypto guru

Spear phishing through LinkedIn did for Professor Jean-Jacques Quisquater

Boost IT visibility and business value

Professor Jean-Jacques Quisquater, a Belgian cryptographer whose work is said to have informed card payment systems worldwide, has reportedly become the victim of a spear-phishing attack by the NSA and/or GCHQ.

Belgium's De Standaaard reports that Professor Quisquater clicked on a fake LinkedIn invitation that infected his computer with something even nastier than the endless claims of industry leadership spouted by those most active on that network. The malware is said to have allowed tracking of the Professor's work, including consultancy for various firms.

Professor Quisquater's oeuvre, listed here at Google Scholar, bristles with cryptographic research. He also shared 2013's RSA Conference Award for Excellence in the Field of Mathematics for his work on “efficient zero-knowledge authentication schemes”. RSA's (PDF) notes for the award describe his efforts as “a seminal translation of cryptographic theory into practice” and as having “had a major impact on the early development of the smartcard industry.”

The professor is therefore a juicy target, as understanding either his research or the advice he offers could conceivably yield insights into real-world operations of cryptosystems or qualities of future schemes.

There's also the possibility of monitoring the professor's e-mail, which again could yield interesting information.

De Standaard says the hack on Quisquater's kit was discovered as part of the investigation into an attack on Belgacom described by one E. Snowden, late of Moscow.

The Belgian paper doesn't say why it is willing to put the NSA and GCHQ in the frame for the hack, saying only that its understanding of what went on indicates their involvement. As the story points out, the attack could be the first known instance of a spookhaus action against a private individual not under investigation for something nefarious. Quisquater's clearly not a 'civilian' , but nor does he appear to be a legitimate target whose activities could reveal the nature of a threat against either the USA or UK. If he has indeed been targeted to gather intelligence about cryptology in general, the Snowden snowball looks set to gather yet more size and speed. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft: We plan to CLEAN UP this here Windows Store town
Paid-for apps that provide free downloads? Really
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Hear ye, young cyber warriors of the realm: GCHQ wants you
Get involved, get a job and then never discuss work ever again
Chinese hackers spied on investigators of Flight MH370 - report
Classified data on flight's disappearance pinched
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?