Hackers steal personal details of two in three Bulgarians as they mock 'joke' cyber-security

James Rothwell
71 per cent of Bulgaria's population was affected by the massive leak - Moment RF

Suspected Russian hackers have stolen the personal details of five million people from Bulgaria's national revenue agency, in possible retaliation for the purchase of several US F-16 fighter jets.

Boyko Borissov, the Bulgarian prime minister, called an emergency meeting after the cyber attack came to light, and examined the extent of the damage with Bulgarian police. 

According to Vladislav Goranov, the finance minister, download links for the stolen personal details of around five million people - 71 per cent of the population - had been emailed to several local newspapers.

The leak, which is the biggest in the Balkan country's history, contains names, personal data and the financial earnings of individuals and companies. 

Mr Goranov said the government has requested help from the European Union's cybersecurity agency. Speaking to the bTV channel, Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said the attack coincided with Bulgaria's purchase of US F-16 fighter jets for its air force and that it could have been motivated by that.

"Organised criminal groups involved in cyberattacks usually seek financial profits, but here political motives are possible. The government decided yesterday to buy F-16 jets," Mr Marinov said.

The finance minister, however, rejected a possible link to the jet purchase, saying the cyberattack had occurred before the deal was approved. Bulgarian media, which received an email from the hackers, said it came from Russian mail provider Yandex. 

The email also called for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in Britain and also faces an extradition request by the United States on espionage charges. Bulgarian media quoted the hackers' email as criticising the Bulgarian government and saying "the state of your cybersecurity is a joke."