7 February 2023
Home » Reports Say 4,000 – 4,500 Polish Email Accounts Were Targeted By Hackers

The past week has seen the continuing fallout in Poland from the hacking of Chancellery Minister Michał Dworczyk’s private email account with the publication of alleged disclosures on the Telegram messenger application. While the alleged revelations – and ‘alleged’ they are, as hackers often mix false with true information – are mildly embarrassing to the government, there have not so far contained any dramatic revelations. The government meanwhile has been anxious to turn the spotlight onto what they claim was a massive cyberattack against Poland, but even in that context sharp political divisions have emerged.  

The main news stories over the past week have included:

• Security services say that over 4,000 Polish email accounts were targeted in the so-called  ‘Ghostwriter’ hacking attack

• New alleged disclosures from Michał Dworczyk’s emails include the implication that the government considered using troops against the women’s strike movement

• Adam Bielan launches Partia Republikańska with the public blessing of Jarosław Kaczyński, and

• Poland exits Euro 2020 despite securing a draw against Spain in Seville and a spirited fightback against Sweden.

On Tuesday a spokesperson for Poland’s security services said that the findings of their investigations ‘show that the target of the recent social engineering attacks was over 4,000 accounts of Polish e-mail users’, including over 100 used by public officials. Stanisław Żaryn said that ‘among the attacked are members of the former and present government, deputies, senators, and local government officials. The attack affected people from various political backgrounds, as well as media and NGO workers’. The official statement added that ‘All the information obtained so far indicates that the actions of the UNC1151 group, which have affected Poland in recent weeks, are part of the ‘Ghostwriter’ campaign, the aim of which is to destabilise the political situation in the countries of Central Europe’.

Last Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, who heads the cabinet committee coordinating security, said that cyberattacks against prominent figures across various political parties in Poland had been launched from Russian territory and were aimed at destabilising Poland. The European Commission expressed support for Poland over the affair and said that the attacks underlined the need to increase the bloc’s efforts to counter cyber threats. It was reported that NATO’s main political decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, was also to discuss the recent wave of alleged cyberattacks against Polish targets.

Above: Cyberwarfare image (Photo: “20171202-F-LW859-013” by AirmanMagazine is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

The news portal Onet.pl has claimed that between 4,000 and 4,500 accounts have been hacked with around 70,000 emails taken. The hacking affair last week prompted the first closed door session of the Sejm since 2014. Some information from last Wednesday’s session has since leaked out, including a suggestion that Jarosław Kaczyński told members that Russia has prepared plans to invade Poland. He also reportedly said that a new law is being drafted to give the authorities more tools to monitor digital activity.

Embarrassing Disclosures from Dworczyk’s Emails

The most high-profile hacking case that’s in the public domain remains that of Chancellery Minister Michał Dworczyk, with much comment about the likely method by which the email and social media accounts of the minister and his wife were accessed. There have been suggestions that the alleged hacking was no more sophisticated than a simple social engineering internet scam. Alleged disclosures from the contents of the hacked material have also generated much comment including a suggestion that Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki regarded Education Minister Przemysław Czarnek as a source of embarrasment, but was powerless to do anything about it.

Another email allegedly from Dworczyk’s mailbox implies that the government considered deploying the Territorial Defence Forces in response to the wave of public protests that followed the Constitutional Tribunal ruling last October further restricting the legal grounds for abortion. In an alleged email from October 27th last year Dworczyk wrote to the Prime Minister: ‘Mateusz, I am sending you some comments in reference to our conversation earlier today. The use of the military in the current situation evokes extremely negative connotations and raises numerous possible risks, including provocations, accusations, and huge reputational damage for the government and the military. The current situation should be handled by police forces with the support of fire brigades’.

Other revelation on the Telegram messaging application included information about defence procurement and about private discussions between Dworczyk and Prime Minister Morawiecki. Officials have emphasised that hackers often mix genuine information with fictitious content designed to cause damage and are declining to comment on the authenticity of individual documents.

Founding Congress of Partia Republikańska

The past week has seen a further playing-out of the political in-fighting within the Zjednoczona Prawica, and in particular within Porozumienie. On Sunday MEP Adam Bielan launched his new political party styled the Republicans at a party convention in Warszawa. Bielan had earlier this year lost an internal power struggle within Porozumienie with party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin, with Bielan claiming that Gowin hadn’t properly got himself re-elected leader of the party. Bielan still maintains the Gowin isn’t the legitimate leader of Porozumienie, and that the Republicans will merge with Porozumienie once legal order is restored in that party.

Bielan told the congress that ‘We are establishing the Republican Party to represent citizens for whom the idea of freedom is important. The idea of individual freedom, national freedom, as well as socially-sensitive economic freedom’. In an obvious dig at Gowin, he said that ‘We are not ashamed of the United Right; we are proud of our good relations with the government and Prawo i Sprawiedliwość ’ adding that ‘Let those who negotiate with the opposition and want to break up the United Right be ashamed’. 

Adam Bielan was seen as the leading figure of the pro-Prawo i Sprawiedliwość wing of Porozumienie and the attendance at Sunday’s founding convention of the Republicans of Prawo i Sprawiedliwość Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński, who also addressed the gathering, will have done nothing to dispel suspicions that the senior coalition partner had incited the rebellion against Gowin.

It’s expected that the Republican Party or Partia Republikańska will be admitted to the Zjednoczona Prawica, which should create an interesting dynamic with Gowin. The new party’s six Sejm members could well help the ruling bloc remain in power especially in light of the recent tie-up with Kukiz’15, should Gowin pull his party out of the ruling bloc.    

Violent Storms Wreak Havoc

Poland has seen particularly violent storms over the past week which came in the aftermath of the recent heatwave. On Tuesday firefighters were called out nearly 1,700 times with heavy rain, hail and strong winds battering the country. In Poznań part of the roof came off a sports hall and fire crews dealt with flooding in five hospitals and a cathedral. Over 23,000 people lost power, mainly in the central Mazovia region. At the weekend firefighters had battled to control a huge blaze that destroyed 44 buildings including over 20 family homes in the village of Nowa Biała, near Nowy Targ  in the south of Poland that broke out on Saturday evening. The government has pledged immediate assistance to help those affected rebuild. The village is comprised of mostly wooden buildings and is densely built-up, and has been impacted by fires in the past.

Work on Baltic Pipe Project to Resume

Marcin Przydacz, an undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at the end of last week that Denmark’s Environmental Protection Agency has authorised the continuation of work on the Baltic Pipe Project – the building of a strategic gas pipeline linking Poland to natural gas deposits in the Norwegian section of the North Sea. It had earlier ordered the suspension of construction work on the Danish overland section of the pipe over concerns at the impact on wildlife. The work had been on hold until new permits were issued. Przydacz said that work will now resume on the 210 kilometer section crossing Danish territory. The project, which Poland views as part of efforts to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, was due for completion in October 2022 but may be delayed due to the recent suspension of work.   

Loss to Sweden Brings Early Exit from Euro 2020

 Well I guess we have to mention Poland’s disappointing early exit from the Euro 2020 soccer championships. The Polish team certainly staged an impressive recovery last Saturday evening following their opening Euro 2020 Group E defeat to Slovakia, with Robert Lewandowski securing a 54th minute equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Spain in Seville. Spain had taken the lead in the 25th minute. That result, which given the low expectations following the Slovakia game, felt more like a win than a draw, meant that the team’s future in the competition hinged on the final group game against Sweden on Wednesday evening. In the game played in Saint Petersburg Poland came from 2-0 down to draw level with goals from who else but Robert Lewandowski in the 61st and 84th minutes, but the Swedes ultimately prevailed by a 3-2 margin courtesy of a winner three minutes into injury time.  

That’s all for this week.

William Murphy writes for Hello Irlandia on political and general news.

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