Suspensions for alleged computer hacking

6th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

6 November 2007, AMSTERDAM - A number of spokespeople for the Dutch Social Affairs Ministry have been temporarily suspended from their jobs, Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner announced Tuesday.

6 November 2007

AMSTERDAM - A number of spokespeople for the Dutch Social Affairs Ministry have been temporarily suspended from their jobs, Social Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner announced Tuesday.

The decision follows news reports that staff members of the social affairs ministry's communication department allegedly hacked into the computer system of the GPD press agency and tried to manipulate its stories.

GPD is an independent news agency which provides news to regional and local newspapers in the Netherlands. The two civil servants who allegedly hacked into the GPD computer were both former GPD employees.

They are said to have used the username and password of a former colleague to break into the GPD computer system. This gave them access for over a year to unpublished stories, as well as to the news service's internal agenda.

Donner did not say how many staff had been suspended but said he "deeply regretted" what had happened. The minister stressed he had not been aware of the actions of his staff and added he has launched an investigation into the affair.

Late Monday night the GPD announced it would file a complaint about the hacking with the police.

Meanwhile Parliament has requested the minister to clarify the matter. The opposition parties green-left Groenlinks and socialist SP have announced they will confront Donner in Parliament on Tuesday.

Meanwhile the public prosecutor in The Hague said it is necessary to wait for the results of the current investigation before deciding whether or not to file a criminal suit against the suspended ministry staff.

The GPD first discovered that the social affairs ministry was hacking its computer system on 19 October.

That day, a GPD journalist sent the communication department of the ministry a story about the latest developments in the government's new redundancy policy. He requested the spokesman to verify a few facts.

The spokesman, however, did not reply. After the deadline had passed the journalist sent the story to the GPD editors, who prepared it to put on the wire. Before the story was officially published, the ministry's chief spokesman suddenly called the GPD to respond to the story.

Interestingly, the spokesman did not react to the version he had been e-mailed many hours before, but to the yet unpublished and re-edited version.

[Copyright dpa 2007]

Subject: Dutch news

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