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.

Submarine Cable Between Iceland and Ireland Begins Operation

Better telecommunications security and speedier cloud services are two of the benefits of a new submarine cable connecting Iceland and Ireland, RÚV reports. The cable, named ÍRIS, began operating yesterday and is the third submarine cable installed and operated by state-owned Icelandic company Farice. The first two are FARICE-1 and DANICE, which connect Iceland to the UK and Denmark, respectively.

“We have evaluated that with the arrival [of ÍRIS], we are increasing Iceland’s international telecommunications security tenfold,” stated Þorvarður Sveinsson. One of the reasons the company decided to lay submarine cables to Ireland is that the country hosts facilities of many tech companies. One example are Microsoft cloud services, and Þorvarður says the new cable should increase their speed for users in Iceland. “The transit time that it takes our data to go between Iceland and these data centres in Dublin is decreasing,” Þorvarður explained.

Farice has additional submarine cable projects in the works, including a pan-Arctic cable connecting Iceland to Japan, set to be completed by the end of 2026. It will be the first Arctic route connecting Asia with Europe through the Northwest Passage and should greatly reduce the optical distance between the continents, minimising latency.

Log4j Vulnerability in Iceland: Uncertainty Phase Declared

keyboard computer typing

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management has declared an uncertainty phase due to the Log4j vulnerability affecting computer networks worldwide. Since last week, Icelandic authorities have been working to minimise the damage the vulnerability could potentially cause. The Log4j vulnerability primary affects businesses by putting their computer systems at risk of hacking.

“The severity of the vulnerability lies first and foremost in how widespread the Log4j code library is and the depth and richness of the access it can provide to internal systems,” according to a notice from the Civil Protection Department. The notice points out that the vulnerability is not unique to Iceland but a global problem. “The public does not have to be particularly afraid of it regarding their home computers or mobile phones. However, it is always a good rule of thumb to update your virus protection and other software as soon as updates are announced.”

Businesses encouraged to review all systems

Network and computer system operators in Iceland are encouraged to review all systems where the vulnerability could be present and updated them as soon as updates are available. Authorities also underline the importance of monitoring systems following an update in order to assess whether there are indications that the vulnerability was used to install malware while the systems were weak.

The National Police Commissioner declared the uncertainty phase after consultation with computer emergency response team CERT-IS and the Electronic Communications Office of Iceland (ECOI). The Civil Protection Department and CERT-IS have activated their response plan for the protection of essential information infrastructure due to the vulnerability.

Cordless Mice – Rodent-Related Internet Outage in South Iceland

The fibre-optic communication system in the Hrunamannahreppur municipality in South Iceland has seen two malfunctions recently, RÚV reports. The culprits? Mice – who appear to be drawn to the insulation tape protecting the cables.

As noted in his letter in the November issue of Pési, the municipality’s monthly newsletter, Director of the Local Council Jón G. Valgeirsson believes that more must be done to respond to the rodents’ encroachments.

While calling into question the nutritional value of insulation tape – and, thereby, the reasonability of the rodents’ actions – Jón G. Valgeirsson lauds the telecommunications company TRS for responding quickly to malfunctions traced to the mice’s voracity. Nonetheless, Jón believes that to keep the mice away from the cables, further action must be taken. In his letter, Jón G. goes so far as to accuse the mice of apathy: “I don’t believe they care,” he writes.

Jón G. Valgeirsson concludes his letter by encouraging more people to sign up for fibre-optic service: “We would happily receive more users residing í Flúðir to our fibre-optic communication system because it is necessary to the operation and maintenance of our society.”

Special “fibre-optic mice?

In a conversation with Iceland Review this morning, Jón G. Valgeirsson stated that there had been one mice-related malfunction since his letter was published. “They seem to be infiltrating the terminal boxes. We took some measures last year, but it appears that they weren’t adequate.”

“Other municipalities don’t seem to be having the same problem with their terminal boxes,” Jón continued. “It makes you wonder if there are some kind of special fibre-optic mice in Hrunamannahreppur.”

All Icelandic Settlements Now Have Fibreoptic Connection

Mjóafjörður Fibreoptic cable

The laying of fibreoptic cable to Mjóifjörður, East Iceland is now complete, and houses in the area have been connected to the system. Mjóifjörður is the last settlement in Iceland to be connected to the country’s fibreoptic network. Now all regions of the country have access to secure telecommunications and internet connections. Locals celebrated the milestone at a special ceremony, where Transport Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, whose role also oversees communications, gave a speech.

Since 2016, efforts have been made to lay fibreoptic cable in Iceland’s rural areas, primarily in order to improve quality of life and increase opportunities for job creation across the country. The government aims to ensure that 99.9% of homes and businesses have access to an internet connection with a speed of at least 100Mb/s by the end of 2021.

“It matters that people have a real choice of place of residence and have the opportunity to choose a job regardless of location,” Sigurður Ingi stated, adding that a better internet connection can also improve access to a growing variety of services only available online.

Though a milestone was reached with Mjóifjörður’s connection, more work remains to be done. Plans are in place to improve the quality of connections in several areas, as well as improve cellular connections on highways, popular tourist sites, evacuation areas near volcanoes, and out at sea.

Icelanders Still Love Facebook

Although Facebook and its negative impacts have been under a great deal of discussion in Iceland of late, just under 50% of Icelanders still feel positively about the social media platform. Vísir reports that a new survey conducted by EMC Rannsóknir shows that Icelandic women, upperclass Icelanders, and Icelanders who live in the countryside tend to be the most positive about Facebook. Just over 30% of Icelanders are neutral about Facebook; 20% are negative about it.

The survey was conducted from August 12-24 and examined public opinion about 65 different companies in Iceland, including Facebook. A total of 1,170 people took part.

Icelanders have long been avid internet and social media users. In 2018, the country ranked 6th in WeAreSocial.com’s global Internet Penetration Rankings, with 98% penetration.

[media-credit name=”We Are Social” align=”alignnone” width=”860″][/media-credit]

The same organization’s “Digital in 2018 in Northern Europe – West” report showed that last year, of the country’s 336,400 inhabitants, 270,000 (80%) were active social media users and active monthly users of Facebook. 240,000 Icelanders (71%) were active mobile social users. Facebook was Iceland’s third most visited website, just after Google and Youtube. (See the full Iceland Digital in 2018 profile here.)

[media-credit name=”We Are Social” align=”alignnone” width=”860″][/media-credit]

EMC Rannsóknir CEO and owner Gísli Steinar Ingólfsson said that Icelanders’ overall positivity toward Facebook was noteworthy.“In spite of the intense and negative discussion about social media and its profound impact, Facebook came out really well in comparison to many companies in Iceland. This suggests that many people put more emphasis on the positive impacts of social media than its negative ones. It will be interesting to follow developments with this in the future and see whether attitudes change with increased discussion.”

Iceland Ranked Second in Online Entertainment Purchasing

Iceland is ranked second in Europe in most online entertainment purchases, RÚV reports. According to the statistics released by Eurostat and compiled by Statistics Iceland, 50% of Icelandic internet users purchased a film or music online last year. Sweden came in number one, but only just barely: 51% of Swedish internet users purchased a film or music online in 2017. Luxembourg, Norway, and Great Britain round out the top five.

Iceland and Norway currently account for the highest proportion of internet usage in Europe. Ninety-eight per cent of Icelandic and Norwegian citizens use the internet on a regular basis.