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Oil, gas and defense data has been boosted from computers in Norway, in what the country fears is its largest-ever data espionage case.

Details are still slim, but according to AP, phishing e-mails were sent with viruses designed to “sweep entire hard drives for data”.

Norway’s National Security Authority, NSM, which coordinates the country’s CERT activities, says attackers have sent industrial secrets from the targeted companies out of the country.

It’s not the first time Norway has suffered serious breaches of security. In March, shortly after its F-16s were involved in air strikes on Libya, a data-stealing trojan was e-mailed to military employees.

NSM spokesperson Kjetil Berg Veire told the Associated Press that more than one person appeared to have been involved in the attack. The NSM is also quoted in an AP running in The Australian as saying that “attacks often occurred when companies were negotiating large contracts”.

Norway has experienced repeated attacks this year, with the NSM identifying at least ten similar attacks targeting the same industries, and the number could be higher, since some victims may not be aware their systems have been compromised.

The Washington Post notes that the Nobel Institute has also been a target, after it gave Chinese activist Liu Xiabo the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. ®

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