NATO Approval Comes with a Price

10776804683?profile=RESIZE_400xFinland’s parliament website was temporarily shut down on Tuesday, 9 August, following a cyber-attack that coincided with the US’s move to admit the Nordic country to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  The Finnish parliament said in a statement on Twitter that a denial-of-service attack hit the parliament’s external websites at around 2:30 pm local time.  “The Parliament takes steps to limit the attack together with service providers and the Cybersecurity Center,” the statement said.

On 10 August, the Finnish parliament announced on Twitter that its website had returned to normal the previous evening.  The attack against the parliament occurred the same day US President Biden signed a measure backing Finland and Sweden’s admittance into NATO.  Biden’s signature makes the US the 23rd NATO country out of 30 members to approve the two Nordic countries’ admission into the alliance.[1]

The US President called the move a “watershed moment” for the transatlantic alliance, adding that the decision to incorporate Finland and Sweden into NATO is “for the greater security stability…of the world.  He added, “At a moment when Putin’s Russia has shattered peace and security in Europe when autocrats are challenging the foundations of a rule-based order, the strength of a transatlantic alliance and America’s commitment to NATO is more important than it’s ever been.”  The announcement on 9 August was at an event attended by the ambassadors of Finland and Sweden.

Last week, the US Senate voted 95-1 to approve the resolution, with every member of the Democratic caucus and most Republicans voting in support.  Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in May of this year, a move many thoughts prompted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. 

A week ago, the Finnish news agency STT said it took some of its systems offline following a malicious cyber-attack.  STT reported investigating the possibility of an information leak, with the STT CEO saying the organization had been in touch with the authorities since the breach.  It is not uncommon for hackers to attack media organizations.  Last year Norwegian media company Amedia suffered a cyber-attack that shut down its computer systems, preventing the publication of its newspapers.  The STT's managing editor said the agency has been upping its preparedness to deal with potential cyber-attacks.  "Over the past six months, we have become increasingly aware that we may be targeted.  We've taken note of attacks on agencies like ours throughout Europe. In that sense, this was expected," he said.  Finnish authorities have warned of an increased cyber-attack risk since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

In May, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom warned that Finland's NATO membership application could increase cybersecurity threats from Russia.  This warning came after the websites of Finland's defense and foreign affairs ministries were hit by denial of service attacks in April 2022, coinciding with Ukrainian President Zelensky's address to the Finnish Parliament.[2]

Following Sweden’s decision to join NATO, the country’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson expressed concerns of possible cyber retaliation from Russia.  “There could be the possibility of cyberattacks, hybrid attacks, and other measures, but it’s all up to them,” she said, adding that the decision to join NATO is best for her country’s security.

Experts have warned that Russia could potentially use its cyber arsenal against Finland and Sweden and say it is likely that it chooses to launch small-scale and unsophisticated types of cyberattacks, including distributed denial-of-service attacks and website defacement, as a form of protest against the expansion.  Brace yourselves, there may be more to come. 

Red Sky Alliance is a Cyber Threat Analysis and Intelligence Service organization.     For questions, comments or assistance, please contact the office directly at 1-844-492-7225, or feedback@wapacklabs. com    

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