Nobel Institute hit by ‘data attack’

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The Norwegian Nobel Institute has once again been the target of what computer security authorities in Norway are calling a new “data attack.” Unknown assailants were trying this week to infiltrate the Nobel Institute’s computer systems and spread a virus, disguised as an invitation to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony next month.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute has come under attack once again, by unknown computer assailants. PHOTO: Views and News

“Someone is trying to infect the Nobel Institute,” Christopher Birkeland of Norway’s National Security Authority (Nasjonal sikkerhetsmyndighet) told news site aftenposten.no on Wednesday. He said the authorities think the assailant is the same one who was behind earlier computer attacks in October. At that time, the website of the Norwegian Nobel Institute was hacked from an IP address at a university in Taiwan.

Suspicion has fallen on criminal computer circles acting in cooperation with Chinese authorities, who earlier have been accused of operating widespread computer espionage, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). The Chinese government has been furious with the Norwegian Nobel Committee ever since it awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Chinese officials have issued scathing remarks against both the Nobel committee and Norway, cancelled a string of events and meetings involving Norwegian officials and artists, and most recently have tried to pressure other embassies in Oslo into staying away from the annual Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo’s City Hall on December 10.

That has led in turn to criticism of China from the countries asked to boycott the ceremony. Some ambassadors in Norway have told Views and News that they find the Chinese reaction equivalent to “bullying,” and have said they don’t intend to let China scare them away from the prestigious event.

(See a response to the Chinese ambassador’s objections to the prize here.)

Gerhard Heiberg, a Norwegian member of the International Olympic Committee, told NRK last week that China was likely to continue to disrupt official contact and business deals with Norwegians, and also has let it be known that Chinese authorities hope the Norwegian royal couple will stay away from the prize ceremony. Heiberg, who was criticized himself for failing to demand more human rights reforms during the recent Summer Olympics in China, said he thinks the Peace Prize to Liu came at “the wrong time” and that the Chinese feel “they’ve been punched in the face” by the Nobel committee.

It remains unclear who will be able to accept the award to Liu. He remains in prison in China, despite international calls for his release. Liu’s wife has also been subject to house arrest as have an estimated 100 other well-known supporters of Liu in China.

Liu’s attorney Mo Shaoping was stopped at the airport in Beijing as he was about to depart for a conference in London, to prevent him from taking part in the Nobel ceremony. Mo told newspaper Aftenposten that he was told he wouldn’t be allowed to travel abroad because it could harm China’s security.

Geir Lundestad, secretary for the Nobel Committee, told VG Nett that the committee is prepared that it likely won’t be able to present the prize to Liu at the ceremony itself. Liu remains the winner, however, and Lundestad said the ceremony will proceed.

Lundestad, whose own computer came under attack just before noon on Tuesday, said Liu Xiaobo has written more than 700 essays that can be used in an improvised acceptance speech.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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