Cyprus has arrested a US diplomat in connection with a suspected cyber attack, the country’s attorney general announced Thursday.
The arrest comes a day after the US government warned Cyprus it would impose sanctions if it did not cooperate with a parliamentary inquiry into the suspected cyberattacks that killed five US diplomatic staff.
“We have the latest information that the US Embassy in Cyprus has been searched, and they have detained a US citizen who has a criminal record,” Yiannakis Tziaras, the prosecutor general, said at a news conference in the capital Nicosia.
He said the arrest was related to the April 20 cyberattack that damaged the computer network of the US Consulate in Nicos.
The US Embassy is located in Nicotra, a small city on the Aegean island of Crete.
US officials have not publicly identified the diplomat, but he is known to be the lead lawyer on the congressional inquiry into alleged cyberattacks on the US consulate in Nicosi.
The Cypriots have detained two US diplomats, a second US citizen and a third US citizen, Tziras said.
“They will be charged as individuals with various crimes,” he said.
A fourth US citizen was detained, but was later released, he said, adding that the second US person had been detained on suspicion of assisting the US embassy.
US diplomats have been among the most high-profile targets of cyberattacks against the US and its allies in recent years.
Tzarras said the US diplomat who is being held had been working on a case in Cyprus, and that he had been living there since January 2016.
“This case will be transferred to the Cyprios Court for the First Instance, as it is now known that the Cyprinico Court was formed in July 2017,” he added.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cyprus at the time of the cyberattack.
The embassy was reportedly the target of an initial cyberattack by a group calling itself “Anonymous” in early April.
“It seems that the American citizen in Cyprus was one of those targeted,” Tzioras said, referring to the US citizen.
TZiras also said that the consulate had been targeted in a cyberattack in July 2018, when hackers claimed to be affiliated with Anonymous.
Tzaras said investigators were also looking into other cyberattacks.
“I’m afraid that there are more cases in Cyprus that are related to these cyberattacks,” he told reporters.
Tzaaras said that investigators have identified more than 200 cyberattacks over the past two years, with more than 40 of those being carried out against US diplomatic facilities.
“In all cases, we have been able to identify the source of the attacks and the actors involved,” he warned.
“Our investigation is continuing.”
In addition to the arrest, Tzaros said investigators had detained two people in the case.
“The other three suspects, we will find out who they are,” he stressed.
Cyprus is one of the countries with the lowest level of cybercrime and cyberattacks, Tzaarias said at the news conference.
He also said investigators found a “virus” that was spreading on computers in Cyprus and in Cyprus’ embassy in Washington, DC.
“That virus, it is a virus that is being spread from one country to another,” he pointed out.
The United States has been in talks with Cyprus to resolve the cyberattacks after the country was targeted by a cyber attack in February.