The embattled Maltese government has claimed that it has come under attack from a Russian-backed campaign to undermine it, amid worsening relations with the Kremlin. Malta assumed the presidency of Europe’s Council of Ministers in January, an important position under which it chairs high-level meetings in Brussels and sets Europe’s political agenda. Since then, the Maltese government’s IT systems have seen a rise in attacks, according to a source working within its information technology agency, a government body. He claimed the attacks, which have increased ahead of next month’s general election, are designed to damage the government. “In the last two quarters of last year and the first part of this year, attacks on our servers have increased,” the source said.
“It’s mainly phishing type of attacks, DDoS (distributed denial of service – during which huge amounts of data are used to bombard IT systems) and some malware on computer systems. There has been an increase of about 40% on the normal level of attacks we would expect. We do not believe they have penetrated our systems but some websites are drastically slower. There has been a tremendous amount of phishing emails – around five million a month.”
A confidential external risk assessment, seen by the Observer, identifies the Fancy Bears – a hacking collective that is often associated with the Kremlin – as a prime suspect.