Principle & Prudence
The conservative approach to cyberattacks
When my friend’s flat got burgled, the police remarked that no-one had been in the bathroom, he replied well there’s nothing to nick there.
The Storting, the Norweigan Parliament, was targeted in a cyberattack in September 2020. Emails of MP’s and members of staff were hacked. Measures have been taken, and the incident reported to the police.
Looking online for further information, what stands out is the uniformity of the response. Most news sources are repeating the official statement, often with the same picture of the government building from the Storting website.
The official statement is brief and factual. There are words associated with danger and warfare, such as “target” and “cyberattack”. There are the technical office terms “Email accounts” and “data downloaded”. The response includes “risk-reduction measures”, “We are taking this case very seriously”, “followed up..in the time ahead”, “reviewing” and “assessed”.
I feel I should go refill my coffee from one of those conference flasks where you push the button on top.
“made the decision to report the cyberattack to the police”.
I can see it in the minutes.
This calm, orderly response is in contrast to the more dramatic ransomware, and factory shut down responses which affected Norsk Hydro and Fresenius Group. This is presented as a house burglary where nothing important was taken but it’s a bit of a mess, and it doesn’t feel good.
The Storting had been hacked before. The emails of the Labour party in the Storting were hacked in 2017, and the group identified as Cozybear was implicated. This was amidst diplomatic exchanges, talk of returning to Cold War troop movements and manoeuvers by the Russian Naval Fleet. In 2020 the focus is on COVID and the vaccine collaboration COVAX, which Norway recently joined.
Regardless of what was taken, or what needs to be downplayed, the information released on this breach is a lesson in control. Norway has the second oldest constitution in the World. Whilst there is a debate for reform, there is also constitutional conservatism requiring a balance between principle and prudence. These key values underlie the Storting response.