On Monday, a number of Swedish government agencies, banks, and media outlets – including The Local – had their websites crippled by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack.
During a DDOS attack, a website is bombarded with communication requests so that the servers become overloaded and the site crashes.
According to Anders Ahlqvist, an IT expert with the National Police Board (Rikspolisstyrelsen), the attacks are clearly connected to efforts by Sweden to extradite Assange from the UK to be questioned in an ongoing sex crimes investigation.
“As long as that continues, we’re probably going to see a lot of this,” he told the TT news agency.
Monday’s attack left the websites for Swedish banks SEB and Swedbank offline for extended periods around midday. Internet brokerage Nordnet was also affected.
Sweden’s main news agency, TT, was also taken offline by Monday’s attack.
The website of the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) was also hit.
According to Ahlqvist, police view Monday’s cyber attack as following a pattern recognized from other attacks in recent weeks.
“Our impression is that they are testing security and gathering information about how resistant systems are and how quickly they can get back online if the attacks manage to knock them off,” he told TT.
Ahlqvist added that police believe sites in Sweden are becoming increasingly popular targets for internet attacks.
Anders Hansson, head of the Computer Security Incident Response Team with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap – MSB), agreed.
“They are becoming more and more common and they are hard to protect against,” he told TT.
Hansson confirmed that his agency had also been targeted in Monday’s cyber attack.
He explained that it’s still rare to see so many companies and agencies targeted in a single attack.
MSB is now trying to learn from where the attacks originated, although determining the source of and motivation for DDOS attacks remains a challenge.
Ahlqvist agreed that it’s nearly impossible to find out who lies behind attacks like the one that hit Sweden on Monday unless those responsible decide to come forward.
“The people that carry these out are technologically gifted,” he said.
Meanwhile, police continue to gather as much information as they can. However, Ahlqvist emphasized that Swedish websites can likely expect more attacks as long as the Assange case remains unresolved.
“As the Assange case continues, we’re going to see these [attacks] against Swedish targets. I’m totally convinced of it,” he told TT.