Cybercriminals have attacked twelve government ministries in Norway, which prompted the creation of a crisis staff almost two weeks ago. The minister in charge of the government’s response to the assault described it as “extremely serious” but emphasized that the government’s work is otherwise “proceeding as normal.”
At a press conference on Monday morning, the minister in charge of municipal governments, Sigbjrn Gjelsvik, stated that the ministry’s security and service organization, DSS, was collaborating closely with the national security authority, NSM. “They have established a series of countermeasures for the attack, and we are closely monitoring the situation,” Gjelsvik said.
When an attack related to a “vulnerability from a supplier” was discovered earlier this month, all “key personnel” were recalled from summer vacation. He stated that the incident had been reported to police, that Kripos was conducting an investigation, that Parliament had been notified, and that the prime minister was receiving regular updates.
“This serves as a reminder that the cyber threat is very real and a significant part of the new security policy environment,” Gjelsvik stated. Those who have previously criticized Gjelsvik for not taking seriously enough how cyberattacks can be used to compromise or influence everything from commercial enterprises to election campaigns may find this reassuring. Gjelsvik’s ministry is also responsible for elections, and municipal and regional elections in Norway are scheduled for September.
Gjelsvik emphasized that the government’s work was proceeding normally apart from the fact that employees in the 12 affected ministries no longer had access to mobile services, such as email on mobile phones and iPads. According to state officials, this is the result of a security response to the attack, but ministry employees can continue to use desktop devices at work and from home offices.
The cyber attack did not affect the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign, Defense, or Justice Ministries because they use different platforms. The website of the state government was also operating normally on Monday.
“Norway is a digitalized country,” Gjelsvik remarked, noting that this makes it especially susceptible to cyberattacks. He and DDS director Erik Hope emphasized that systems are under “constant surveillance,” but Hope had to admit that “a previously unknown vulnerability in the program of a supplier” had been exploited by “an unknown actor.” We have now eliminated that weakness.”
Hope stated that it was “too early to say” who was responsible for the attack or its scope. “Our examinations and the police investigation will yield additional information,” said Hope.