One of Norway’s biggest companies, Norsk Hydro, was battling the biggest cyber attack in its history Tuesday morning. National security authorities were called in to help and were in “tight dialogue” with Hydro.
Hydro, a major international aluminum producer, revealed the attack itself in a message to the Oslo Stock Exchange early Tuesday. The company wrote that it had been “subjected to an extensive cyber attack” during the night Norwegian time that was “affecting operations in several of the company’s business areas.”
Hydro appeared down for the count around 9am, with its website failing to open. The company wrote that information technology systems in most business areas were affected, “and Hydro is shifting over to manual operations where possible.” Efforts were being made to “neutralize the attack,” but the company still wasn’t sure about the full extent of the situation.
Employees arriving for work Tuesday morning were met with signs reading: “Hydro is under cyber attack,” and warning them not to hook up to the company’s network until they had received “a new message.” Signs were posted in both Norwegian and English.
NSM called in
Mona Strøm Arnøy, communications director at the national security authority NSM (Nasjonal sikkerhetsmyndighet), told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday morning that Hydro had contacted NSM’s response team and that it has devoted all the resources it has to help Hydro.
“We are aware of the attack and are in tight dialogue with Hydro,” Arnøy told NRK. “This is a very early phase, we’re assisting Hydro in handling the attack and with analysis but it’s too early to draw any conclusions.”
She said the response team was initially concentrating on analyzing the technical tracks of the attack and helping Hydro deal with them. The attack represents a security threat because it has “directly affected our systems,” said Hydro spokesman Halvor Molland. He confirmed early Tuesday that the attack forced the company to shut down production where possible.
‘A magnitude we haven’t seen before’
Molland described the attack as being “of a magnitude we haven’t seen before.” hitting several of Hydro’s plants in both Europe and the US. “They have hit us to a broad extent and in several areas of our organization,” Molland told NRK. “This is a serious situation that we’re working hard to limit and control.”
He said signs of the attack began with “disruptions” within Hydro’s network, followed by problems with management systems. The company immediately moved what areas it could over to manual, instead of digital, operation. His colleague Erik Brynildsbakken told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that Hydro’s IT workers discovered the “suspicious activity on our servers” in the middle of the night, and the problem then spread to more parts of the organization.
“That’s when we saw that it was necessary to warn the market,” Brynildsbakken told DN. Hydro’s stock fell 2.65 percent after trading opened Tuesday morning.
The attack comes after a year of severe difficulties for the company at its huge alumina refinery in Brazil and just a day after Hydro announced that its long-time CEO and company veteran Svein Richard Brandtzæg was stepping down and set to be succeeded in May by Hilde Merete Aasheim. She’ll be the first woman to head a major Norwegian company.