(Corrects day in first paragraph)
By Toby Sterling
AMSTERDAM, June 27 (Reuters) - The Dutch intelligence agency (AIVD) on Thursday warned of the escalating threat of state-backed cyber espionage, saying the Netherlands was particularly vulnerable as a hub for international business, telecoms and human rights groups.
Its report comes as European states, including the Netherlands, assess the safety of their 5G telecommunications networks amid an international row over whether equipment made by China’s Huawei could pose a threat to national security.
Huawei has denied its products pose any risk.
“Russia, China and Iran are examples of states with an offensive cyber-programme,” the AIVD said in its report, which listed several examples without naming the state involved.
“In one instance, a certain state strove to silence and spy on former citizens that had immigrated to the Netherlands ... making the victims feel unsafe and restricted,” the report said.
It added the AIVD was also aware of states attempting to infiltrate decision-making bodies and of states sabotaging vital infrastructure.
AIVD spokeswoman Femmy Barends said the agency could not give more specific information.
“What we want to do is raise awareness and underline how large the threat is,” she said.
In October, the Dutch government said it had caught and expelled several Russian agents caught red-handed trying to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
On Monday, the Netherlands’ biggest telecom Royal KPN NV was struck by an hours-long network outage that rendered emergency numbers inaccessible. KPN has said the issue was caused by a software bug, and it has no indication it was hacked.
Barends said there was no particular reason for the timing of the release. European governments are supposed to complete assessments of 5g safety requirements by the end of this month, ahead of a European Commission risk analysis due in October.
On Wednesday, the country’s Advisory Council on International Affairs said the Dutch government should not totally exclude Huawei as a supplier.
KPN, which relies heavily on Huawei as a supplier for network equipment and billing infrastructure, has said it intends to use Huawei radio towers in its 5g mobile network, describing them as “non-core” equipment.
In May, Newspaper De Volkskrant reported that the AIVD was looking into Chinese spying via KPN and other Dutch telecommunications networks. (Reporting by Toby Sterling Editing by Alexandra Hudson)