Poor Cyber Security in Iceland Leaves Infrastructure at Risk

Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir Icelandic minister

Iceland is lagging when it comes to knowledge and education on cyber security, which could put the country at risk of cyber attacks, RÚV reports. Minister of Universities, Innovation, and Industry Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir says a new university program focusing on cyber security will be established in the coming year or so. Suspicious traffic within Iceland’s network jurisdiction has increased sixfold since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

 “We are quite far down in cyber security when compared to other countries, and are maybe among countries that we generally don’t want to compare ourselves to,” Áslaug Arna stated. The lack of security could make Iceland’s infrastructure a target for cyber-attacks, including its energy system or its healthcare system.

 Alþingi, Iceland’s parliament, passed amendments to its national security policy two weeks ago. Apart from military threats and cyber security, the policy covers societal threats such as financial security, epidemics, climate change, and natural disasters.

Icelandic Websites Under Cyber Attack

The websites of a number of Icelandic organizations have been subjected to sustained cyberattacks this week, RÚV reports. Sverrir Már Sverrisson, the network administrator of Netheimur, an IT company which hosts the websites of many Icelandic companies, said the attacks have lasted for an usually long time during recent days. The attacks also come in the wake of PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s announcement in March that the Icelandic government would be increasing its defence budget, with special emphasis on cyber security.

Sverrir Már says this weeks spate of service disruptions have been DDOS, or a distributed denial of service, attacks, in which tens of thousands of IP addresses are routed through the same portal, which puts strain on web servers and crashes the website under attack. “It’s like sending a thousand men through the same door at the same time,” he explained. Typically, such attacks last for roughly 15 minutes, but Sverrir said that on Thursday, the attack on Netheimur’s system lasted for over an hour.

See Also: Iceland to Increase Defence Spending, PM Announces

As a result of the attacks, Icelandic newspaper DV, which is among Netheimur’s clients, had to block all foreign readers from its website. DV also reported that the DDOS attacks led to their website being knocked out completely on several occasions. There were also disruptions on RÚV’s website on Thursday, but these were only minor and appear to have been rectified.

The DDOS cyber attacks are still being investigated.

Iceland to Increase Defence Spending, PM Announces

PM Katrín Jakobsdóttir attended a NATO meeting in Brussels yesterday. Speaking to RÚV after the meeting, the PM stated that the government would be increasing its defence budget, with special emphasis on cyber security.

A short and long-term response to the war

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir attended an extraordinary NATO meeting in Brussels yesterday alongside Minister of Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir. The aim of the meeting was to discuss NATO’s short and long-term response to the war in Ukraine.

“We condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms,” a statement released after the meeting by the Heads of State and Government of the 30 NATO Allies read. “We call on President Putin to immediately stop this war and withdraw military forces from Ukraine, and call on Belarus to end its complicity, in line with the Aggression Against Ukraine Resolution adopted at the UN General Assembly of 2 March 2022.”

Increased humanitarian support

In an interview with RÚV after the meeting, Katrín stated that although Iceland would not be participating directly in NATO operations, it would be offering humanitarian support.

“We have decided to ramp up humanitarian support. That is, to increase our support even more. We’ve tripled our spending since the start of the invasion.”

As noted on the government’s website, Iceland will be contributing an additional ISK 150 million ($1.1 million / € 1 million) to humanitarian aid. The authorities have already spent more than ISK 500 ($3.9 million / € 3.5 million) million since the war began.

Increased sea and air traffic is expected

Given that NATO has decided to activate its defence plans, Katrín Jakobsdóttir also expects increased traffic above and around Iceland. NATO’s defence plans involve, among other things, the deployment of “significant air and naval assets.”

“Defence plans have been activated for all NATO zones,” Katrín observed, “including areas to which Iceland and Norway belong. So we can expect increased air and sea traffic.”

Iceland will also be increasing its NATO funding.

“We will increase our spending over the next few years, and that spending will be focused on cyber security, which is also an area of emphasis within NATO,” Katrín told RÚV.