Norway’s police intelligence unit PST has informed the Norwegian Labour Party that its Members of Parliament have been subjected to a hostile cyber attack. PST told Labour Party officials that the hackers have been tied to a foreign country’s intelligence operation.
The country allegedly involved was not identified. News of the attack comes a day after PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) announced that Russia now poses one of the biggest security threats to Norway.
“I can confirm that we have been oriented by PST that the Labour Party’s parliamentary group is subject to an attempted digital attack from a player that PST ties to foreign intelligence,” Camilla Ryste, media contact for Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
All Labour MPs reportedly have been instructed to be extremely careful about what they write in emails and how they handle the email they receive. The “digital attack” on Labour is believed to have targeted Labour’s email server.
TV2 had initially reported the attack on Labour Thursday evening, after obtaining a copy of a letter written by the leader of Labour’s secretariat, Hans Kristian Ammundsen. He warned MPs against opening any “suspicious” emails and text messages received on their smart phones.
“We have no information as to whether the intruders succeeded, nor whether they failed,” Ammundsen srote. “Norwegian authorities are working on an investigation of that.”
PST officials declined to comment on the cyber attack on Norway’s largest political party that’s currently gearing up its campaign to try to win back government power in the September parliamentary elections.
Norway’s political parties have been warned about the danger of hacker attacks, not least after the attacks last year on both the Democratic and Republican parties in the US. Those attacks targeted email servers and succeeded in exposing thousands of sensitive emails that damaged the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. US intelligence officials have claimed that Russia was behind the attacks, motivated by an alleged desire to help Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump, win the election, which he did.
Ammundsen referred to the attacks in the US in his letter to Labour MPs: “Keep in mind that (email) content can go astray, like it did in emails to the Democrats in the USA.”
‘We all need to be cautious’
Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s own intelligence service have expressed fears that Russia will try to influence the outcome of its upcoming election. Similar fears have been expressed in the Netherlands and France, where Russia is believed to be keen to see right-wing candidates win and destabilize European politics.
Norway’s new justice minister, Per-Willy Amundsen, told NRK on Wednesday after attending his first PST annual briefing on security threats that “I wouldn’t use the word ‘fear,’ but we must be aware that foreign powers can have an interest in influencing the election in Norway. This is first and foremost a warning to us all. We’re not saying this to make people afraid, but we all need to be cautious.”
The attack on Labour was said to have occurred via an email to the parliamentary group’s mail address, and that a handful of other Norwegian targets were targeted at the same time. None of the other political party’s groups, however, was believed to have been attacked.
Norway’s Greens Party was attacked last summer and the Liberal Party has revealed that it was attacked in 2015. NRK reported that neither the Progress Party nor the Christian Democrats have experienced a digital attack.