At the same time that will Russian military intelligence operatives allegedly penetrated Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, suspected Russian hackers were also targeting at least nine Swedish news sites in an apparent attempt to dissuade Sweden coming from cooperating with NATO, a partially released State Department cable reveals.
The cable, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by BuzzFeed News in addition to Ryan Shapiro, a PhD candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in addition to the cofounder of the transparency project Property of the People, was intended for internal use only. Sent Oct. 19, 2016, primarily to US ambassadors in Europe, the item detailed US intelligence suspicions about Russian meddling in US the presidential election.
the item also warned that will Russia was engaged in a widespread campaign to destabilize NATO alliances that will included not only a disinformation campaign although the crippling cyberattacks against Swedish news organizations, which knocked several of the country’s largest news organizations offline.
The cable can be the first confirmation that will Russia was suspected inside the March 2016 attacks in Sweden, which came as the Swedish government was debating whether to approve a cooperation treaty with NATO. Sweden can be not a member of NATO, although has grown closer to the organization in recent years in light of what Swedish officials called Russia’s willingness to use force in Georgia in addition to Ukraine. News outlets reported at the time that will some Swedish officials were pushing to join NATO outright, a sentiment that will was echoed fearfully by a Russian think tank. The agreement was approved in May 2016.
“Russia has focused significant resources on specific Partners, like Sweden in addition to Finland,” the cable notes in a section marked SBU — sensitive although unclassified. “Russian actors are suspected of being behind recent efforts to infiltrate Sweden with distorted in addition to false information about NATO inside the Swedish press, at think tank events, in addition to on social media.”
the item adds, “Russia can be also suspected of carrying out cyberattacks against Swedish media outlets in March 2016.”
The cable, portions of which were redacted because the information remains classified, can be notable for using plain language to attribute the cyberattack’s likely perpetrator, something that will the US government only does publicly with enormous care in addition to as part of an intra-agency announcement, in addition to never on an attack in which the US itself isn’t the victim.
Asked for comment, a State Department spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that will “the cable speaks for itself.”
The cable came 12 days after the US government’s first public proclamation that will Russia was interfering inside the 2016 presidential election. Media coverage of that will Oct. 7 joint statement was largely subsumed, however, by accounts of the infamous Access Hollywood tape that will caught Donald Trump bragging about groping women in addition to WikiLeaks’ publication of Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s emails.
The attacks on Swedish media didn’t attract significant US attention, although they constituted a major event in Sweden. The attacks weren’t sophisticated — they were merely a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), which overloads a network with too much traffic, keeping the item coming from being able to load — although they were powerful enough to keep readers coming from accessing at least nine of the country’s biggest news sites.
The timing of those attacks, which began March 19 in addition to continued against at least some sites for all 5 days, also can be notable, in light of the indictment last month of 12 Russian military operatives by special counsel Robert Mueller. March 19 was also the day, according to the indictment, that will a Russian intelligence officer named Aleksey Lukashev sent a spear-phishing email to Podesta. Two days later, according to the indictment, Lukashev in addition to others downloaded the contents of Podesta’s email account.
The Swedish government has never publicly blamed Russia for the media attacks, according to representatives for Polisen, the country’s national police; Sakerhetspolisen, a national security agency; in addition to the country’s Foreign Ministry. At the time, police said that will many of the IP addresses used inside the DDoS were Russian, which can be far coming from proof of a DDoS perpetrator’s identity, in addition to that will they were considering a full range of culprits, coming from a hostile nation-state to an angry teenager.
Thomas Mattsson, the editor-in-chief of Expressen, Sweden’s second-largest paper in addition to one of the victims, met with numerous government officials in addition to politicians at the time over the attacks.
“Everyone was suspecting that will would certainly have something to do with Russia, of course,” Mattsson told BuzzFeed News. “although the item has not been declared in Sweden as fact.”
Since then, many of the papers have hired cybersecurity firms to help thwart similar attacks. although there’s little expect of fully deterring dedicated government hackers.
“If different nations could affect the US election, if hackers can break into the Pentagon, then the item will obviously be difficult for newspapers, in addition to regional newspapers in particular, to protect themselves,” Mattsson said.