back to article Sweden 'secretly blames' hackers – not solar flares – for taking out air traffic control

Sweden suspects a hacker group linked to Russian intelligence was responsible for an attack on its air traffic control systems last November, it is claimed. Air traffic control systems across much of Sweden were unavailable on November 4. Computer problems meant air traffic controllers were unable to use their displays, an …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This reminds me of an old BOFH story.

    1. Osgard Leach

      It reminds me of an old William Gibson story.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It reminds me of the "budget submarine" story

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Might be but...

    Harrumph!

    From "solar storm" (so, WAS there a solar storm or not?) to precise finger pointing ("an elite hacking crew linked to the Russian military intelligence service GRU") and general wobbling of the knees (" Vattenfall might come under attack") in 15 seconds?

    And why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes? And make it obvious that they can, indeed, do so? Cyberdickwaving is not a good enough reason.

    This sounds suspiciously like someone from NATO elicited an urgent statement showing a "clear and present danger" to aligned countries (a "secret" statement, say no more!). NATO is currently under attack in the Transpondian Homeland as a White Elephant Looking for Aggro, costing lots, not being paid for by Europeans and which should rightly have been dismantled back in the 90s as the US occupation forces and medal generator that it is.

    1. Bc1609

      Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

      Your guess is as good as mine, but it wouldn't be the first time. In 2013, Russia practiced bombing raids on Sweden (Newsweek link, and an FT report on the same incident); last year Russia was caught flying military jets over the Baltic with their transponders turned off; the year before that the same trick nearly caused a collision with a civilian airliner (Reuters report).

      Russia (under any name) hasn't exactly got a great record when it comes to relations with their "peaceful" neighbours.

      1. Chris 249

        Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

        @bc1609 - and don't forget the Russian Sub in Swedish waters!

      2. Big John Silver badge

        Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

        > "Russia (under any name) hasn't exactly got a great record when it comes to relations with their "peaceful" neighbours."

        That's because "Russia" (whatever that is) has no natural boundaries worth mentioning. Russia is a big juicy target and an invader can just march right in, theoretically. Not so theoretically, sometimes.

        It makes the Russians very suspicious and defensively minded.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

          Russia is a big juicy target and an invader can just march right in, theoretically.

          But note they have not kept Russian territory, or even haven't marched out in one piece! Just ask Napoleon or Hitler.

          The size of the country means it is completely impossible for anyone to conquer Russia, as long as the Russians do not completely drop the ball on defence. Their paranoia is unjustified.

          1. David Neil

            Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

            Russian Academy of Science estimate

            Deaths caused by the result of direct, intentional actions of violence 7,420,379[56]

            Deaths of forced laborers in Germany 2,164,313[57]

            Deaths due to famine and disease in the occupied regions 4,100,000[58]

            Total 13,684,692

            Yeah, God knows why they are paranoid

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

        Russia (under any name) hasn't exactly got a great record when it comes to relations with their "peaceful" neighbours.

        Russia has never considered them particularly peaceful. I suggest you look up "contraband of strategic goods to Germany through Sweden in WW1 and WW2" for a detailed explanation why.

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

          14,000 in their full time combined forces?

          Someone has dropped the ball! The UK has about 150k by comparison.

          1. MacroRodent Silver badge

            Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

            14,000 in their full time combined forces?

            Someone has dropped the ball! The UK has about 150k by comparison.

            Well, Sweden is surrounded by friendly nations, they have Finland as a convenient buffer zone towards Russia, they have no past or present overseas territories to defend, and unlike the UK, have stayed out of wars for the past 200 years. Then the cold war ended and perpetual peace appeared to arrive to at least western and northern Europe. So they dropped the ball.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

        Civilian transponders "not functioning" eh, how about the G&T trolkey, inflight movies and WiFi or towed "Happy Birthday" banner and girls in bikinis walking on the wings?

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Might be but...

      Probing each other's defences is what militaries do, unfortunately, and Russia has never been subtle.

      Why would peaceful Russia have restarted interceptor testing of Sweden and the UK?

      I presume NATO is doing the same.

    3. Graham Dawson

      Re: Might be but...

      Russia and Sweden do have a historically adversarial relationship, probably dating back to the days when Sweden held most of the Baltic coast. The Swedes developed a healthy paranoia about Russian designs on the scandinavian peninsula during the cold war and are still convinced that there are Russian submarines lurking off the coast, just waiting for the right moment to sink Stockholm and nuke Dalarna. The Russians, meanwhile, have long memories and are undoubtedly holding a grudge about the Swedish assault on st Petersburg.

    4. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Might be but...

      Cyberdickwaving is always a good enough reason!

      Really though, Sweden should think of this as successful penetration testing for free.

    5. Bob Dole (tm)

      Re: Might be but...

      >>And why would Russia randomly be stressing out peaceful Swedes?

      Maybe because the Swedes aren't likely to do anything other than lie to their people and privately complain about it? Even if they were inclined to do more than moan and groan, I don't think the 10 people they have in their army is much of a deterrent.

      All in all, it seems like a decent country to do a "live test" exercise on. They are decently advanced and have no real offensive capabilities whatsoever.

      1. Big John Silver badge

        Re: Might be but...

        I thought you were making it up about the Swedish force size, but no, you weren't.

        Wikipedia reports it here.

        Looks like the Swedes let their defense lapse at the same rate as the decline of the Soviets. Well, what do they do now with a resurgent Russia? I know, I know, the Chicken Dance...

  3. ldm

    Your runway lighting has failed

    It is pitch black. Your computers are likely to be eaten by a GRU.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, it makes a nice change from Chinese hackers...

    Although to be fair it could have been GCHQ or NSA or any kind of spook fuckhead.

  5. PaulAb

    Elite Hackers......

    Probably a system patch being applied... Russian cyber attack sounds more exciting

  6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Are they sure it's not a glitch in the system due to code reuse?

  7. Malignant_Narcissism

    I find it interesting no one has pointed out that it was done at great risk of innocent flying passengers. I'd be all up in Russia's shit if I were Sweden.

    1. Vic

      I find it interesting no one has pointed out that it was done at great risk of innocent flying passengers.

      No it wasn't. It was done at great risk of passengers being delayed at originating airports.

      ATC uses computers predominantly for performance reasons. If it all goes dark - as it did for NATS not so very long ago - the planes get to their destinations safely, but new flights aren't allowed to join the melee.

      Vic.

  8. Someone_Somewhere

    Hyperbole

    > Sweden secretly blames

    no-one at all. *

    * if they'd done it /secretly/, you wouldn't be writing about it.

  9. MotionCompensation

    Hacked

    So they hacked the sun?

    1. swarfega

      Re: Hacked

      Seems so. A "storm" of protest needed.

  10. aberglas

    Russian hackers cause a lot of problems on my software.

    Every time it crashes, that is another hack attack. And then I have to send out security patches.

    At least that is what I tell my customers...

  11. x 7 Silver badge

    "The signals reportedly emanated from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad"

    about time that anomaly from WWII was resolved and what is really East Prussia handed back to Germany

    1. Bumpy Cat

      I think that one is already resolved permanently - as the Red Army approached in 1945 most of the German population fled, and those that remained were expelled by 1950. The enclave is (legally and population-wise) Russian now, and giving it back to Germany would not be resolving anything.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I would like to point out that without the enthusiastic Polish division in the Red Army this would not have gone so well for the Georgian moustache-boy and his Ukrainian and Armenian helpers ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How about we give all of Europe back to the Golden Horde, Julius Caesar, Saladin and the Swedish Chef?

  12. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Russian hackers take out air traffic control?

    Who was it connected Sweden Air traffic control to the Internet?

    Who is America currently trying to pick a fight with in eastern europe?

    Who got paid to type that BS?

  13. hopgen

    There was a indeed a medium size solar flare causing an extremely intense solar radio burst

    exactly at the time and with the same temporal behaviour as the radar disturbances in Sweden.

    I am a professor in Space Physics in Sweden and lead an independent scientific evaluation of the

    solar event, which is confirmed both by my colleagues at NASA, and leading solar Scientists in Switzerland, France, Belgium and Ireland. The news about Russian cyberattacks are wrong and at best reflect the chaos everybody was in during the days immediately after the event when we had not yet enough time to analyse our data properly.

    We are preparing a scientific publication, which will be published when the Swedish air

    authorities have finished their report. We are in constant contact with LFV, and they agree with our conclusions and our data agrees with their disturbance pattern.

    We have also informed Eurocontrol in Brussels and given presentations at

    scientific meetings like e.g in a keynote lecture at the European Space Weather Week in Oostende in Nov 2015. SO far we have not found one single expert who would contradict our observations and findings after we presented all the data available.

    However I agree that the Swedish authorities are unduly late in publishing their report, thus inviting

    conspiracy theory completely without reason. The reason for the delay is unexplained to me.

    Best regards, Hermann Opgenoorth , Prof in Space Physics, Uppsala Sweden

  14. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Public vs Private

    Hacking, DDOS etc is not going to stop - we have to remove public access to what should really be private networks like a/c traffic control.

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