Buzzfeed News – a branch of the American media giant that distinguishes itself for its more serious, investigative journalism – published Friday a report that claims to shed light on suspicious glitches experienced by at least nine of Sweden's largest media sites in March 2016.
Based on a partially released cable Buzzfeed News obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Russia is allegedly suspected of the attacks that blacked out the major news sites in an alleged attempt to dissuade Sweden from cooperating with NATO.
The cyberattack came at a time when the Swedish government was debating whether to approve a cooperation treaty with NATO, which Sweden is not a member of but has worked with more closely in recent years.
“Russia has focused significant resources on specific Partners, like Sweden and Finland,” the cable reportedly reads.
“Russian actors are suspected of being behind recent efforts to infiltrate Sweden with distorted and false information about NATO in the Swedish press, at think tank events and on social media.”
Russian military intelligence operatives are also reported to have carried out the attack on Sweden at the same time as they penetrated Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
According to Buzzfeed News, “the attacks (on Swedish news sites) weren’t sophisticated — they were merely a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), which overloads a network with too much traffic, keeping it from being able to load — but they were powerful enough to keep readers from accessing at least nine of the country’s biggest news sites”.
The attacks began on March 19 and continued against at least some of these Swedish sites for five days.
They either partially or totally shut down the sites of Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet, Dagens Industri, Sydsvenskan and Helsingborgs Dagblad.
Sweden’s government has never publicly blamed Russia for the media attacks.
Swedish police said at the time that some of the suspected IP addresses were Russian, but that wasn’t enough to pinpoint the true culprits.
Internet traffic to Sweden from Russian users increased significantly during the time of the attacks.