PST, the Norwegian Security Service, announced on February 3 that Russia carried out multiple cyber attacks against the government. These attempted breaches did not access any classified information, but they aggravated the tension between the two nations that share a border.
The type of cyber attack that was recognized is known as “spear-phishing.” The perpetrator sends emails that seem to be from known sources to the recipient. However, once these emails are opened, malicious software is launched onto the recipient’s computer network. This allows the attacker to infiltrate both classified and unclassified information.
The instigators of the attack, ATP, also known as Cozy Bear, attempted to access the networks of the Norwegian army, the Intelligence service, the Foreign Ministry, a school, and the Radiation Protection Agency, as well as breach communication between nine personal civil-servant email accounts from the Labour Party. Labour spokeswoman Camilla Ryste stated, “We were informed by the PST that Labour’s parliamentary group was subjected to an attempted digital attack by a group that the PST ties to foreign intelligence.” Norway’s TV2 revealed that this hacker group, with connections to the Russian Security Service FSB, was also behind the attack on the Democratic National Committee during the U.S. election, as well as the infiltration of the unclassified networks of the White House, State Department, and Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Just days before the attacks, on February 1, Norway had complained to the Russian ambassador about the denial of visas of two Norwegian Members of Parliament to Russia. The Russian ambassador explained that this act was in retaliation for the sanctions Norway imposed against Russia after Crimea was annexed from the Ukraine in 2014. This response, in addition to the following attempted breaches, has worried the Norwegian government.
Norwegian officials are viewing Russia as a serious ongoing security threat. PST Head Marie Benedict Bjornland claimed, “The intelligence activities of Russia in particular have the potential to be more dangerous now than before.” Moreover, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg declared, “These are attacks on the democratic control systems in our country.”
This most recent cyber attack has further strained relations; it remains to be seen what action the Norwegian government will take against Russia.