As Trump Eases Russian Sanctions, Norway Reveals A Kremlin Cyberattack

"Cozy Bear" operation targeted Labour Party, army and intelligence service.

Norwegian security officials have revealed a cyberattack by suspected Russian intelligence operatives that is strikingly similar to what occurred during the U.S. presidential election.

Hackers attempted to breach communications among members of Norway’s Labour Party much the same way American intelligence agencies have determined that Russians targeted emails from within the Democratic National Committee during the U.S. campaign, reports Norway’s TV2. Norwegian officials believe the same hackers were involved in both attacks. The cyberattack was linked to a group identified as “APT 29,” also known as “Cozy Bear,” the same Russian crew tied to the American infiltration, The Associated Press reported.

The hackers also attempted to breach communications within the Norwegian army, its intelligence service, the foreign ministry, a school and a radiation protection agency. No classified information appears to have been accessed, according to a spokesman for the Norway Police Security Service (PST), the nation’s intelligence agency, The Guardian reported.

“Nine different email accounts were targeted in an attempt at what is called ‘spear phishing,’ in other words, malicious emails,” PST official Arne Christian Haugstoyl told TV2.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the operations “attacks on the democratic control systems of our country.”

Security officials informed Labour officials Thursday that the party’s “parliamentary group was subjected to an attempted digital attack by a group that PST ties to foreign intelligence,” said a spokeswoman for Labour chairman Jonas Gahr Store.

It’s not yet clear what damage may have been done during the attack last fall. Labour members have been warned to be extremely cautious when communicating via email. “Take into account that the content can go astray, as happened with the emails to the Democrats in the United States,” Labour’s secretariat director, Hans Kristian Amundsen, warned in a letter. Legislative elections are scheduled for fall.

U.S. President Donald Trump has just eased one of a set of sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration as a penalty for the cyberattack during the American presidential campaign. On Thursday the U.S. Treasury Department eased restrictions to allow some cyber-security sales to the Russian Federal Security Service, the very same agency that was accused by American intelligence of meddling in the U.S. electoral process.

Shortly before he moved into the White House, Trump suggested to The Wall Street Journal that all Russian sanctions should be lifted if Russia does “some really great things,” though he didn’t specify what those things might be.

Norway’s officials see Russia as a continuing serious security threat. “Intelligence pressure from foreign states, especially from the Russian side, has been high and stable over the years,” said the head of the PST. Now that there is a “tougher security situation” as tensions rise over Russian activities in Ukraine, “the intelligence activities of Russia in particular have the potential to be more dangerous.”

On Thursday, the Russian Embassy in Oslo accused the Norwegian intelligence service of being “anti-Russian.”

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