Belgian government phishing test goes off-track

A drill caused confusion when a regional government impersonated a rail company without informing it

Digital key

Digital key

An IT security drill went off the tracks in Belgium, prompting a regional government office to apologize to European high-speed train operator Thalys for involving it without warning.

Belgium's Flemish regional government sent a mock phishing email to about 20,000 of its employees to see how they would react.

The email purported to be a booking confirmation from Thalys for a trip from Brussels to Paris, including a stay in a fancy hotel. The cost -- almost €20,000 (about US$22,000) -- would be charged to the recipient's credit card unless the person cancelled within three days, the email said.

To cancel the trip, the email instructed recipients to send their credit card information to Thalys, Belgian media reported.

Rather than hand over such information, though, government employees started calling Thalys to complain, to the bewilderment of its staff: The government had neglected to inform Thalys of the drill and nobody in the company's call center knew what was going on.

Some government employees also reported the matter to the police.

Frank Geets, the Flemish government's administrator-general for facility management, said the government went a bit off the rails by not informing Thalys of the drill.

"We made the mail as realistic as possible and used Thalys' logo. But actually, we did not have their permission to do so," Geets told Flemish news channel VTM, adding that the government has apologized to Thalys for "being a bit overzealous."

While phishing attacks against staff are a perennial problem for large organizations, training to defend against them needs to be done with care and forethought. The Flemish government is not the first to discover this: An anti-phishing exercise by a U.S. Army commander went farcically wrong last year.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags securitygovernmentThalys

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?