Why This $1.2 Trillion Man is Losing Sleep

Image Credit: iStock Images, dusanpetkovic

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In the Norwegian language, hygge refers to a state of mind that can be roughly translated as “warm, happy, safe.” None of that describes the mood inside Norway’s gargantuan sovereign wealth fund, charged with managing the Baltic nation’s $1.2 trillion oil money war chest.

In the first six months of the year, the fund – which holds the equivalent of 1.4% of the world’s listed companies — suffered a $174 billion loss, or 14.4% of assets under management. But it’s not losses the size of New Zealand’s entire economy that has the Oil Fund’s CEO running a huge hygge deficit — it’s cyberattacks.

The Usual Suspects

Unsurprisingly, much of the activity can be traced back to state-backed organizations in Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, according to Bill Conner, executive chairman at SonicWall.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the crippling economic sanctions that followed, the risk for retaliatory attacks have exploded. Nicolai Tangen, chief executive of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, told the Financial Times, “I’m worried about cyber more than I am about markets…we’re seeing many more attempts, more attacks [that are] increasingly sophisticated.” And the data backs him up:

  • While malware attacks grew by just 11% in the first half of 2022, attacks targeting financial institutions more than doubled. Worldwide ransomware attacks miraculously dropped 23% during the same time period, but increased by 243% for financial targets.
  • Oil Fund CEO Nicolai Tangen, who has been at the helm for just over two years, told the Financial Times the fund suffers roughly 100,000 cyberattacks per year, with 1,000 being classified as “serious.”

The Russians Kept Coming: Trond Grande, the Oil Fund’s deputy chief executive, pointed to the 2020 attack on software giant SolarWinds, which saw Russian hackers breach the US Treasury, Pentagon, and several Fortune 500 companies: “They estimate there were 1,000 Russians [involved] in that one attack, working in a coordinated fashion. I mean, Jesus, that’s our whole building on one attack, so you’re up against some formidable forces there.” Why hack a sovereign wealth fund in Norway? Because, as any online Willie Sutton can tell you, that’s where the money is.