EU Council chief did not use Russian USB stick given to summit leaders

Media reports say that tainted USB sticks were handed to participants in the G20 summit in September

By Jennifer Baker, IDG News Service |  Government

 Security protocol for the European Council president meant he would never have used an allegedly tainted USB stick allegedly given to him by Russia at the G20 Summit council, sources said Wednesday.

Media reports in Italian newspapers Tuesday alleged that President Herman Van Rompuy had found the suspicious device in a gift bag given to all the G20 attendees at the Summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in early September.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and High Representative Catherine Ashton were also at the Summit, but a Commission spokesman said Wednesday that the Commission's security department had not found any malware yet.

"So far the analyses of the hardware and software have not amounted to any serious security concerns, however it is too early to consider whether the gifts that were given out to be fully clean," he said.

But the Commission spokesman added that diplomats would not use any external IT items "regardless of the provenance."

According to reports in the Italian media, foreign delegates at the summit also received mobile phone chargers that could have secretly tapped into emails, text messages and telephone calls. The USB data sticks allegedly contained Trojan horse malware to capture information.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the allegations and said they were an attempt to distract from the spying scandal surrounding the U.S. National Security Agency. Outrage erupted following revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the U.S. government engages in massive data collection efforts. The NSA has been collecting large numbers of U.S. phone records and overseas Internet communications for years, according to documents leaked by Snowden.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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