A total of 12 Norwegian government ministries have been hit by a cyber attack that prompted formation of a crisis staff nearly two weeks ago. The government minister overseeing response to the attack called it “extremely serious” but stressed that the government’s work is otherwise “proceeding as normal.”
Sigbjørn Gjelsvik, the minister in charge of municipal governments, said at a press conference Monday morning that the ministries’ security and service organization DSS was working closely with the national security authority NSM. “They have set up a series of measures to handle the attack, and we’re following the situation closely,” Gjelsvik said.
All “key personnel” were called home from summer holidays when the attack related to a “vulnerability from a supplier” was detected earlier this month. He said the attack had been reported to police, was under investigation by the state crime agency Kripos, that Parliament had been informed and the prime minister was receiving regular updates.
“This is a reminder that the cyber threat is very real and a considerable part of the new security policy situation we’re in,” Gjelsvik said. That may comfort some who have criticized Gjelsvik in the past for not taking seriously enough how cyber attacks can also be used to compromise or influence everything from commerical enterprises to election campaigns. Gjelsvik’s ministry is also in charge of elections, and Norway’s municipal and regional election looms in September.
Gjelsvik himself stressed that the government’s work was otherwise proceeding as normal, apart from employees in the 12 ministries affected no longer having access to mobile services including email on mobile phones and Ipads. That’s the result of a security response to the attack, according to state officials, but ministry employees can otherwise work as normal via desktop devices either at work or from home offices.
Neither the Office of the Prime Minister nor the Foreign-, Defense or Justice ministries have been affected by the cyber attack, since they use different platforms. The state government’s website was also functioning as normal on Monday.
“Norway is a digitalized country,” Gjelsvik noted, making it especially vulnerable to cyber attacks. He and DDS director Erik Hope stressed that systems are under “constant surveillance,” but Hope had to concede that “a previously unknown vulnerability in the program of a supplier” had been “exploited by an unknown player. We have now closed that vulnerability.”
Hope said it was “too early to say” who was behind the attack, or the extent of it. “Our examinations and the police investigation will give us more answers,” Hope said.