Russia has asked visiting members of a Danish foreign policy committee to leave their modern mobile devices at home during a pending official visit to Russia. By ‘home’, Russia means Denmark – not the visitors’ hotel rooms or embassy.
Nick Haekkerup, leader of the country’s primary opposition party, posted his surprise on Facebook, commenting that he would have to endure a week ‘without Internet, email and social media’, but adding that it might be an opportunity to ‘talk to some more people in the real world’.
Ex-Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard of Denmark’s Social Liberal Party also noted on Facebook:
‘Goodbye smartphone. On the way to Russia with Foreign Policy Committee, where we have been advised not to have gadgets with the interests of safety. Instead, we have this rather used model that brings back memories. Goodbye mails, bye news and social media.’
The Danish Foreign Ministry suffered a major cyber-attack in 2015, facilitated by a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) infiltrated into the network of the Ministry via the Danish embassy. At the time head of the Center for Cyber Security Thomas Lund-Sørensen asserted “everything suggests another state was behind the attack.”
A cyber security unit in the Danish ministry also reported 2016 cyber-intrusion attempts, ascribed to a ‘state sponsored hacking group’. Though the earlier attack was speculated to emanate from the middle-east, due to the use of Arabic names, increasing suspicion has since fallen on Russia and China as actors in the attacks. However Denmark’s security unit has not specified a source country – if indeed it has ascertained one – but rather commented that the two countries have the capability to carry out such attacks.
It could be argued that Russia’s unusual veto on the Danish emissaries’ smartphones, pads and computers is a defensive measure designed to forestall later, further accusations of interference during the visit.