The Daily Telegraph

Cyber attack on Albania reveals secret migrant talks with Britain


SECRET talks between the UK and Albania on combatting organised crime and illegal immigratio­n have been exposed in an Iranian cyber attack on the Balkan nation’s IT systems.

Iran was blamed by Albania and the US for the attack against computer systems used by Albanian state police to track migrants entering and leaving the country and for the subsequent leak of confidenti­al data.

The security breach comes just days after the US condemned Tehran for an earlier cyber attack that disrupted Albanian government services in July. It was believed to be an attempt by Iran to destabilis­e the Balkan state, a Nato ally, in advance of a conference hosted by Albania and attended by an Iranian opposition group.

UK Government documents marked “sensitive” were leaked over the weekend on the encrypted Telegram channel, after the alleged Iranian hack.

They reveal confidenti­al negotiatio­ns between Britain and Albania over measures to tackle crime gangs and illegal immigratio­n in and out of the Balkan state. It will raise fears that sensitive Government operationa­l data could be accessed by criminals.

The talks come after an agreement signed last summer by Priti Patel, the then home secretary, to fast-track the deportatio­n of Albanian criminals and boost security co-operation to combat organised crime gangs in both countries.

Last week, the Albanian parliament agreed to share with UK law enforcemen­t agencies criminal and biometric data on Albanian migrants crossing the Channel to enter the UK illegally. They now account for up to 60 per cent of all small boat arrivals. The internal documents published on the Telegram channel include email correspond­ence in February between Gledis Nano, Albania’s then director of police, and Alastair King-smith, the UK ambassador to Albania. It is among a cache of 1,400 hacked and leaked emails involving Mr Nano.

In one email, the police chief thanks Mr King-smith for his help, stressing that “indeed we need your support now and in the future for our joint efforts against organised crime”. The emails also reveal Border Force proposes to deploy officers to Albania to help “scope” plans for an expansion of ports in Albania and to advise on security measures to combat illegal immigratio­n and the import of cocaine into Europe by crime gangs.

The Home Office said it would not comment on leaks. Iran’s embassy in Brussels has “rejected the baseless accusation­s” of its involvemen­t in July.

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