Norway seeks answers over mobile bugging

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Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, deputy chairman of the parliamentary justice committee, is looking for answers. Photo: Vidar Ruud/NTB scanpix
17:49 CET+01:00
Norway's government is under pressure from MPs after revelations this weekend that suspicious mobile base stations sited around Oslo were used to spy on people’s mobile phone use.

Norway’s National Security Agency (NSM) has given credence to the reports by newspaper Aftenposten:

“Our main conclusion is that it is probable that the results obtained by Aftenposten in its investigations are credible,” said Kjetil Nilsen, director of the agency.

The NSM has now sent a report to the ministries of justice and defence and to the Police Security Service (PST). The PST is investigating whether the fake base stations were placed in Oslo by a foreign state.

The PST has previously pointed to Russia and China as countries particularly interested in spying on Norway. A number of the base stations were placed close to the US and Israeli embassies, said Aftenposten.

However, Professor Svein Knapskog, information security expert at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said the story was a “storm in a teacup”.

“We’re talking about open communication via mobile telephony. What they can get hold of is telephone numbers and connections between subscribers. They can’t see the content,” he said.

The NSM warns that digital networks are vulnerable and said Norwegians should be “aware that monitoring can take place and have an awareness of what we communicate.”

Opposition parties in Norway’s parliament wrote a joint letter to Justice Minister Anders Anundsen on Monday asking him to brief MPs on the issue:

“I hope we can get to the bottom of what this is and who is behind it,” said Christian Democrat Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, deputy chairman of the parliament’s justice committee.

The committee is also demanding to know what plans the government has to ensure that Norwegians can communicate freely in Oslo in the future.

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