EU officials 'hacked' at Azerbaijan Internet Governance Forum

A spokesman for digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes says he and one of her policy advisors have had their laptops hacked in Baku, which they are visiting for a major internet policy conference. A day before, Kroes had laid into her hosts for spying on activists.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The laptops of two EU officials have apparently been hacked in Azerbaijan during the Internet Governance Forum.

The officials both work for digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, who gave a speech at the forum on Wednesday in which she lambasted the Azeri government for spying on activists online, and promised to promote tools for helping journalists avoid surveillance.

"Great, now my Mac has been hacked," Kroes's spokesman, Ryan Heath, tweeted on Thursday morning. "Also @msprotonneutron [policy officer Camino Manjon] — I wonder who could have done that? #Azerbaijan."

Heath subsequently clarified to ZDNet UK that the alleged hacking had taken place in a hotel, rather than at the event itself.

"Hacked @ hotel rather than at #IGF12. Someone else took over my personal MacBook. Can't determine more yet," he wrote.

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is an annual event at which internet policymakers from around the world convene for discussions with the technical community, academics and other stakeholders.

This year's event comes less a month before the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai, at which global telecoms rules will be revised for the first time in around 24 years. Some fear that governments could assume more control over the internet in the new rules, although Kroes told ZDNet UK in August that she opposed such a move.

Kroes's speech on Wednesday was combative in tone. Describing the internet as "the new frontier of freedom and a new tool to exercise this freedom", she accused her hosts of breaking pre-Eurovision promises to loosen their grip on free expression.

"In this very country, we see many arbitrary restrictions on the media," Kroes said. "We see the exercise of free speech effectively criminalised. We see violent attacks on journalists. And we see activists spied on online, violating the privacy of journalists and their sources. I condemn this. The restrictions must end."

Kroes referred to the European Commission's 'No Disconnect' strategy, which involves giving online activists "technological tools… that help journalists avoid surveillance and safeguard their right to privacy".

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