updated 3/24/2011 3:10:58 PM ET 2011-03-24T19:10:58

Another week, another attack by sophisticated hackers possibly based in China.

Officials at the European Commission and the European External Action Service in Brussels reported Wednesday that their organizations were being hit by a “major” cyber attack.

"We're regularly hit by cyber attacks, but this one's a big one," an unnamed European Union official told the independent EUObserver news site.

Other officials, who would not go on the record, told the website that the attack was similar to one on the French Finance Ministry two weeks ago.

The European Commission and the European External Action Service are, respectively, the executive and diplomatic bodies of the Brussels-based European Union.

"We have found evidence that both the commission and EEAS are the subject of an ongoing widespread cyber attack," read an email sent to staffers Wednesday.

Internet access was locked down at the two organizations, and all staffers were asked to change their passwords.

European Union leaders were scheduled to begin their regular spring summit Thursday. The escalating European-U.S. involvement in the Libya crisis, which the Russians and Chinese object to, is set to be the main topic of discussion.

"This is an important summit in many ways,” an EU source told EUObserver. “There are people who want to know what the different positions are in what's being discussed."

The French Finance Ministry disclosed on March 7 that its networks had been penetrated by extremely skilled hackers who had stolen documents pertaining to France’s presidency of the Group of 20 industrial economies.

France’s yearlong tenure in the rotating presidency began in December, which is when the Finance Ministry attacks also began.

Last week, American security company RSA, which makes SecurID authentication tokens used by 40 million employees of corporations and government bodies, said its networks had been penetrated by an “advanced persistent threat.”

“Advanced persistent threat,” or APT for short, is often a polite euphemism for “Chinese government hackers.”

It is impossible to prove, but hackers working for or with the Chinese government are thought to have penetrated and stolen information from hundreds of foreign governments, corporations and political bodies over the past three years.

Among the targets have been Google, the Pentagon, General Motors, ExxonMobil, DuPont, the office of the Dalai Lama, the Indian Foreign Ministry, BP, Disney, MorganStanley, Royal Dutch/Shell and the 2008 presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain and President Barack Obama.

China has consistently denied any connection to the network intrusions.

"We are not speculating on the origin" of the attack, EU institutional affairs spokesman Anthony Gravali told EUObserver.

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