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November 18, 2011

Norway Affected by Extensive Espionage from Hacker Attack

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

Norwegian officials are this week reporting that they have uncovered widespread data thefts from companies in organizations representing the country’s oil, gas and national defense industries. The attacks occurred throughout the year at the different times, on different facilities. Security officials from Norway’s National Security Authority (NSM) said it was the most widespread and devastating hacker attack the country has ever experienced.

Industrial secrets were reportedly stolen and “sent out digitally from the country,” according to the NSM, with at least 10 organizations targeted. It did not specifically cite any companies or institutions that had been affected, nor did they reveal any theories on who was responsible, except to say that it seems clear that more than one person was behind the attacks. 

According to the Associated Press (News - Alert), the methods used by the hackers varied, though in some cases, individually crafted e-mails carrying viruses were addressed to specific individuals within the targeted organizations. The viruses would then sweep recipients’ hard-drives for data and steal passwords, documents and confidential documents.

Though the Norwegian government was unsure where the attacks originated, it’s not the first time the national has been targeted by hackers, says the Associated Press. In 2010, shortly after Norway’s Nobel (News - Alert) Prize committee announced Chinese dissident and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo as that year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Nobel Institute’s Web site saw severe attacks, complete with a dangerous Trojan horse virus.

BBC News said today that NSM first learned about the attacks when “vigilant users” told internal IT security staff, who then contacted the security agency. NSM said there are probably more victims who lost data, but that the organizations in question did not yet know about the security breaches.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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