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PRIVACY

Hackers post politicians’ ID numbers online

Hackers have published online the social insurance numbers of all Norwegian parliamentarians in a bid to start “talks” on digital privacy issues.

Government ministers could read their names and identifying numbers on the website Pastebin courtesy of the name Anonymous. The website lets people anonymously paste in text, as the hackers themselves did with a “press release” declaring their motives.

“We wish to draw attention to the use of birth dates (in the social insurance number) as so-called identification,” the message said.

The “hacktivists”, as theye are known by their peers, say they want Norway to stop using the one birthdate-based social insurance number, or personal number, as blanket ID required for a variety of official electronic exchanges, from purchases to contact with tax authorities and banks. The hackers fear identity theft and excessive tracking of citizens.

The hackers say it’s all too easy to create programmes that retrieve the personal numbers.

“(Politicians) who make decisions should have first-hand experience with … and experience the feeling of how uncomfortable it is to know that this information is available for whomever.”

Norwegian privacy overseer the Datatilsynet told newspaper Dagbladet that uploading the personal numbers — including those of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and former finance minister Kristin Halvorsen — was illegal.

A number of Norwegian banks have been hacked online via programmes that mimic net-banking forms. Customers accustomed to entering their social security, or personal numbers, in online bank forms have unwittingly typed the critical information into the malware forms of criminals using the same online session to track passwords.

Norway’s tax offices recently started issuing one-use personal passwords akin to those the hackers say are issued in Germany.

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HACKING

Norway accuses Russian hackers of parliament attack

Norway's domestic spy agency on Tuesday blamed a Russian hacker group linked to Moscow's military intelligence for a cyberattack on the Norwegian parliament earlier this year.

Norway accuses Russian hackers of parliament attack
Norway's parliament in 2013. Photo: Mike McBride/Flickr

The Norwegian intelligence agency (PST) said the likely perpetrators were the Fancy Bear collective — a group regularly accused of attacks including on the US election — but there was not enough evidence to pursue charges.

A “vast” cyberattack on August 24th gained access to the emails of some MPs and parliamentary employees, officials announced at the time, without speculating on the identity of the attackers.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide later accused Russia of being behind the attack, and PST investigators have now strengthened her claims.

“The investigation shows that the network operation which the Storting (Norwegian parliament) was subjected to was part of a broader national and international campaign that has been going on since at least 2019,” PST said in a statement.

“Analyses show that it is likely that the operation was led by a cyber actor … known as APT28 or Fancy Bear. This actor has ties to GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency.”

Using a method known as a “brute force attack”, where multiple passwords and usernames are submitted with the hope of eventually getting the right combination, the hackers were able to download “sensitive” information, PST said.

“The investigation has however not yielded enough elements to bring charges,” it said in a statement.

Russia's embassy in Norway has yet to comment on the PST findings, but in October it lambasted Eriksen Søreide's accusation as “unacceptable”.

“We consider this a serious and wilful provocation, destructive for bilateral relations,” the embassy said on its Facebook page at the time.

While relations are generally good between NATO member Norway and Russia, who share a border in the Far North, several espionage cases on both sides have soured relations in recent years.

Norway's intelligence agency regularly singles out Russia as one of the country's main espionage threats alongside Iran and China.

READ ALSO: Norway accuses Russia over cyber attack on parliament

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