back to article Swedish air controllers debunk cyber attack disruption theory

Sweden's civil aviation administration (LFV) has concluded that radar disruptions that affected services in Stockholm and Malmö last November were down to the effects of a solar flare, scotching rumors reported by El Reg and others earlier this week that a hacker group linked to Russian intelligence might be to blame. Radar …

  1. a_yank_lurker

    Ockham's Razor

    Most failures of the power grid, traffic control, etc. will be due rather mundane reasons not cyber attack. Ockham's Razor says use the simplest explanation that fits the facts which will often be a very boring, mundane reason.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Ockham's Razor

      I still say it's a glitch in the system caused by code reuse.

    2. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Ockham's Razor

      So which is the simpler explanation - spies doing spy stuff or electromagnetic radiation travels millions of miles and manages to randomly target one air traffic control system whilst leaving neighbouring systems OK and all other IT fine. Nature doesn't care about political boundaries, spies do (a lot).

      The trouble with Ockham's Razor with is that it's hard to know which explanation has the fewest assumptions (not necessarily the simplest). In this case I'd argue that the simplest explanation was incorrect.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken

        Re: Ockham's Razor

        So which is the simpler explanation: the sun doing sun stuff, or a group of people spending hundreds of hours focused on the task of finding weaknesses in a foreign computer system thousands of miles away, then using that to cause minor disruption to air travel for an hour and a half?

        When you just wave your hands at it, you make it sound simple. Just because there's a simple term for something doesn't mean it's actually simple. "Having a baby" sounds pretty straightforward if you don't think about the processes involved, not to mention all the things that can go wrong.

  2. GrumpyKiwi

    This was the "solar storm" that affected no other northern nation's ATC. Not Iceland's. Not Norway's. Not Finland's.

    So either it was an incredibly tightly focused solar storm, or Sweden's ATC equipment is so crap that it's affected by storms that don't affect any one else, or they're talking bollox. None of which is a good result.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You make an interesting point.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      "This was the "solar storm" that affected no other northern nation's ATC" [Citation needed]

      You may have access to ATC logs, but we don't. Care to share?

      (In other words, who would know about the Downtime of the Swedes if there hadn't been some finger pointing involving P.U.T.I.N.?)

      1. GrumpyKiwi

        Opinion of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics was that the storm in question was very weak and shouldn't have affected systems in question.

        (Warning: Original Article is In Swedish).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's all very nice

    But from a civilian point of view all that happens when radar¹ goes dark (as they do with certain regularity at some places) is that traffic reverts to procedural control, as opposed to positive control, aka vectoring.

    What this means is that you fly the procedure as per the chart and report your position / speed to the controller over the radio. You burn more fuel (but not more than you had planned to in the first place) and the terminal / airspace capacity is typically reduced by some amount as minimum separations are increased and aircraft spend more time in the air.

    So it does cost a bit extra money, but that's all. I'm sorry if this doesn't sound too spectacular and doesn't help with your newspaper sales.

    ¹ There are two kinds of radar: primary and SSR, the second is far more useful as that's what interrogates the transponder which responds with all sort of useful information. Depending where you are there may be a certain amount of overlap in SSR coverage and these days it is becoming more common for the signal to be able to be "remoted" to other centres, thus adding redundancy and cutting costs as a single radar installation can be shared between multiple centres. Lastly, ground radar going dark does not affect TCAS, which is the transponder interrogation by other aircraft for the purpose of collision avoidance.

  4. gollux

    World War III will begin with various nations ramping up their weaponry to include all sorts of hypersonic warhead delivery systems, advanced cruise missiles and cyberwarfare initiatives.

    The trigger will be a 10 thousand year solar event and an itchy, ill-educated button finger recently removed from scratching a well-fed upper class behind.

  5. Tim99 Silver badge


    Well he^H^H they would wouldn't he^H^H they?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: MRDA?

      @Tim99 - huh? What's the Men's Roller Derby Association got to do with it?

  6. WatAWorld

    What it means is the problem might be bigger than we thought

    "down to the effects of a solar flare" -- that doesn't mean we should tolerate a repeat outage. What it means is the problem might be bigger and more complex than we though, since it is of natural origin and not man-made.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: What it means is the problem might be bigger than we thought

      The problem is man-made. Any which way you look at it. Man-made gear doesn't work under conditions it should have been designed to be able to tolerate in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What it means is the problem might be bigger than we thought

        'Twas always thus.

  7. Stevie


    Fools! It's obvious the fucking Russians have hacked the Sun!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      So they are completely terrified about Russia, despite being neutral, not in NATO (so not on the Big List, no, not Santa's one) and not sharing a border with them. Nice work, you fearless Vikings!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bah!

        A fat core of Russia and Ukraine is actually due to raiding/settling Scandinavians. That must have been some "Aguirre" style voyages down to Black Sea via the land/water route.

        So an invasion would be a Great Homecoming?

      2. khjohansen

        Re: Bah!

        Sweden is a significant "speed-bump" on the egress from the main ice-free naval bases

        in the baltic for the russian atlantic navy.

        Their non-membership of NATO was accepted as symbolic by all parties:

        Very much on the *Big List*

        Nice work, fearless Coward!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bah!

          > Their non-membership of NATO was accepted as symbolic by all parties

          Those were good times, when half-backed generals were not looking for peasants to bomb and Reagan promised to not extend eastwards if the Soviet bloc let go of its eastern "glacis".

          Plans to take over Sweden? It's not like we didn't have plans to nuclearly terminate the Soviet Union via B-52 H-Bomb shuttle bombing, and, as we had to drive the bombers via China, exterminate the Chinese too by doing "bomb as you go" operations, because - why the hell not?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bah!

            "t's not like we didn't have plans to nuclearly terminate the Soviet Union via B-52 H-Bomb shuttle bombing, and, as we had to drive the bombers via China"

            Where did you come up with that? It doesn't really make sense to me.

            I know for a fact that in the 50s and 60s those B52s were circling over Europe - a lot closer to Moscow than going through China.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Bah!

              U.S. Cold War Nuclear Target Lists Declassified for First Time

              Whether China was fighting on the Soviet side or not in a war, SAC treated it as part of the Soviet bloc and listed Chinese airfields and cities in the target lists, including Beijing. Of the list of targets scheduled for “systematic destruction,” Beijing was in the top 20 (number 13) with 23 DGZs (Designated Ground Zoness). The list included several Air Power targets, including two Air Force military control centers and two Air Force storage areas. The location of those installations suggests that Beijing would have been targeted with thermonuclear weapons early in the war. For Beijing and its suburban district Fengtai, SAC identified various infrastructural and military DGZs, including “Population” targets.

              1950s U.S. Nuclear Target List Offers Chilling Insight

              Alex Wellerstein, a historian of nuclear weapons at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, said that in 1959, the United States had atomic bombs totaling about 20,000 megatons. President Dwight D. Eisenhower pushed to reduce the arsenal, and the tonnage was cut by half over the next year or two, he said.

              “He just thought this would lead to the annihilation of the human species,” Mr. Wellerstein said.

              At the time, military planners sought to surround the Soviet Union with bomber bases and, in the event of war, called for what they referred to in official documents as a “bomb as you go” strategy, flying toward the biggest Soviet cities and hitting every listed target along the way, Mr. Wellerstein said.

              Stephen I. Schwartz, an independent consultant on nuclear weapons policy and the co-author and editor of a 1998 book on American nuclear weapons, “Atomic Audit,” called the target list “grim and frankly appalling.” But he said he was pleased that the document had been published at a time when fewer and fewer Americans, including policy makers, have much knowledge of nuclear weapons.

              “We’ve known the general contours of nuclear war planning for a few decades,” he said. “But it’s great that the details are coming out. These are extraordinary weapons, capable of incredible destruction. And this document may be history, but unfortunately the weapons are not yet history.”

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Bah!


                But I don't really get that SAC was attacking Russia over China and hitting China on the way.

                The article says they were targeting China - I would guess those bombers were coming from the bases in Guam and the Philippines.

                B52s are large, but not large enough to carry a payload and fuel sufficient to hit China and then continue on to Russia.

                1. imanidiot Silver badge

                  Re: Bah!

                  Afaik the fastest routes from the US bases to Russia are actually over the polar regions. Most routes from Europe would also be far more northerly than you'd expect! Bombing China "on the way" wouldn't really work. Also keep in mind Russia is pretty damn big and a lot of it is pretty damn empty. Most of the major cities are located in the western part of the country.

  8. gnufrontier

    We control the vertical, we control the horizontal

    "It ain’t what you don’t know that hurts you. It’s what you know that ain’t so.”

    And we don't know how much of what we know this quote applies to

    Facts are more difficult to mine than diamonds and are worth significantly less, they get in the way of perception management..

  9. I Am Spartacus

    Probably the Russians....

    No, seriously. There is a ship based system for tracking vessels called AIS. See (and others). This uses VHF radio transmission. It has long been known that around Skaw and the Skagerrak there is a dead spot. It is why there are so many shore based transponders in the region.

    Some year ago, ESA funded an investigation in the effect, using a radar research plane, flying grid patterns in the area. It was found that there is a radar lobe in just this area, which is believed to be caused by the Russians version of the COBRA DANE radar outside Moscow.

    Turning that up could have caused some problems in the area at that time.

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