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Diplomats Hacked by Wine Invite | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


Unfair pricing, diplomatic hacking and flat-out theft – it must be time for our Sunday news roundup.

© Gerd Altmann/Pixabay | Hackers used EU staffers’ renowned thirst for free wine against them, according to a French website.

This week, we learned that one of the Bordeaux wine merchant operations charged with unfair pricing practices (see Bordeaux Wine Merchants in Court) was launching an appeal against the recent verdict. Cordier, a major négoce operation in the region which, via its Excell subsidiary, was fined €200,000 for offering to buy wine from Médoc winegrower Rémi Lacombe at under cost price, said it would appeal the charge.

“Here we go again for at least a year and a half – two years, even,” Lacombe’s lawyer told local radio station France Bleu. “But it should at least put the affair back in the news, and again highlight that the wine was purchased at too low a price.”

The other négoce operation slammed by the verdict, Ginestet, has yet to announce whether or not it will appeal.

Meanwhile, across France, economy minister Bruno Le Maire’s crackdown on falsely labeled goods continued apace, with just under 2000 establishments visited by agents of the country’s anti-fraud and consumer protection bureau (the DGCCRF). According to a report from radio station BFM, 10,000 goods of nominally French origin (primarily fruit and vegetables and wine) were inspected by the teams, with 683 “anomalies” reported.

In an interview with national television channel TF1, Le Maire cited the case of a winery that imported Spanish wine, carbonised it and then sold the drink as sparkling French wine.

Here are some more stories you might have missed this week:

EU diplomats hacked by tasting invite

Details emerged in the press this week of a sophisticated email scam, dubbed “SPIKEDWINE”, in which several EU diplomats had their computers compromised after responding to a fake email, purportedly from the Indian ambassador, inviting the recipient to a wine tasting at the Indian residence.

The sophisticated email, sent to diplomats across Brussels in late January, contained a link for the recipient to enter their details ahead of the fake wine tasting on February 2. 

“The PDF file is a fake invitation to a wine-tasting event purported to take place at the Indian ambassador’s residence on February 2nd, 2024,” said cybersecurity firm Zscaler. “The contents are well-crafted to impersonate the Ambassador of India. The invitation contains a link to a fake questionnaire, which kickstarts the infection chain.”

The backdoor malware technology, by which respondents click on a link, giving an external third party access to their computer, was dubbed WineLoader by Zscaler.

The scam was highly sophisticated.

“WineLoader has functions aimed specifically at evading detection,” said French language computer website Numerama, which subtitled the story “Châteauneuf-du-hack”.

“The techniques used include encrypting sensitive information in memory so as not to alarm scanning programs responsible for spotting threats,” it went on. “A backdoor into the victim’s operating system could be installed to provide an open and clandestine point of entry for the benefit of the hackers.”

According to the same source, the email was “inadvertently opened by several individuals”. The origin of the attack is not known although Numerama underlined that European diplomats are a regular target of attempted scams, with numerous organizations looking to gain knowledge of the backroom exchanges in EU diplomacy.

Zscaler said the architect of the attack had “put additional effort into remaining undetected by evading memory forensics and automated URL scanning solutions”.

Clarendelle back at the Oscars

The wines of Domaine Clarence Dillon, the owners of storied Bordeaux estates including Château Haut-Brion and Saint-Émilion’s Quintus, will be poured at this year’s Oscars awards evening – the second year running the estate has been chosen to do so.

The tables of Hollywood’s finest will not be awash with First Growth Bordeaux as the wines for the occasion will once again come from the company’s more entry-level Clarendelle brand alongside second wines from La Mission Haut-Brion – another Clarence Dillon estate.

“Clarendelle and Domaine Clarence Dillon wines have renewed their partnership with the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and will, once again this year, be the red and white wines served exclusively to the constellation of film stars present at the ceremony,” said French wine news website Terre de Vins.

The wines to be poured at the 96th edition of the Oscars, held today, are the red Clarendelle Bordeaux 2016 and its white counterpart, the 2022 Clarendelle Blanc. These will be accompanied by bottles of the red 2010 La Chapelle de La Mission Haut-Brion (the second wine of La Mission Haut-Brion) and the white 2017 La Clarté de Haut-Brion, also produced at La Mission Haut-Brion.

“Since its beginnings, our family business, Domaine Clarence Dillon, has been a fervent supporter and promoter of the arts, both in France and on the international scene,” said Domaine Clarence Dillon owner, Prince Robert of Luxembourg. “Along with Clarendelle, we are thrilled and honored to be part of the biggest night in Hollywood.”

Before entering the wine world, Robert of Luxembourg was as a screenwriter, co-writing a screenplay on Don Juan with Julie Ongaro, who he later married. 

€50,000 of wine stolen in Chablis

Five pallets of wine worth around €50,000 were stolen from a wine estate near Chablis on Monday night. According to news reports, the Château du Viviers, in Tonnerre, just northeast of Chablis, was broken into and 1400 bottles, on five pallets, were stolen from their storage space in an old wine press.

The stolen wines were primarily white, labeled under the Chablis appellation and included a pallet of magnums and cases of biodynamic wines.

“It was only wine made from my estate – namely wines from 2020, 2021 and 2022,” Arnould Lefébure, who took over the estate in 2019, told local newspaper L’Yonne Républicaine. “The bottles are identifiable because they are numbered.”

He said the bottles had all been waxed by hand. The burglars are understood to have accessed the property via its courtyard before getting into the storage room containing the old press.

A police team was on the scene on Tuesday to check for fingerprints and to take DNA samples. So far, no arrests have been made.

“Our death in a bottle” protests in Bordeaux

Agricultural fury continued to simmer in France this week, this time with Bordeaux viticulturists enraged by news that supermarket chain Lidl was offering €1.89 for a bottle of its Terres Legendaires Bordeaux (in a buy four, get two free deal) across France. A number of viticulturists descended on the huge Lidl distribution center in Cestas, on the southwestern outskirts of Bordeaux city, to protest at the gates.

“When you remove the [sales tax], you get to €1.57. If you take away the dry goods costs [label, bottle, cork, etc.], there’s nothing left. That’s putting our death in a bottle,” Bastien Mercier, spokesperson for local collective action group Viti33, told local news network Actu Bordeaux.

“We knew that there would be some really ridiculous prices but this is deplorable – a winegrower can’t live on these prices,” one of the demonstrators told radio news network BFMTV.

Demonstrators began descending on the Lidl logistics site from 5am, blocking warehouse’s entry road with tractors and, in one case, a trailer filled with uprooted vines (the region is currently undergoing a major, government-funded vine-pull scheme, aimed at redressing oversupply in the industry – see Bordeaux Vineyards Disappear).

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