HIGHLY PRIZED: Web developer Ola Strømman and journalists Linn Kongsli Hillestad and Espen Sandli investigated computer security in Norway for six months before publishing their article series «Null CTRL» in Dagbladet. They are now recipients of the European Press Prize. Photo: Bjørn Langsem / DAGBLADET
HIGHLY PRIZED: Web developer Ola Strømman and journalists Linn Kongsli Hillestad and Espen Sandli investigated computer security in Norway for six months before publishing their article series «Null CTRL» in Dagbladet. They are now recipients of the European Press Prize. Photo: Bjørn Langsem / DAGBLADETVis mer

Dagbladet awarded the European Press Prize

Journalists warned system owners and Norwegian NSA of 2500 critical data flaws. Today they were awarded the «European Pulitzer».

(Dagbladet): In the series «Null CTRL», that consisted of more than 60 stories and ran in Dagbladet last year, journalists Linn Kongsli Hillestad and Espen Sandli tested surveillance cameras, data bases and control systems publicly available online. They found everything from youngsters snogging to national security at risk.

Together with editorial in-house web developer Ola Strømman, they were today awarded the Innovation Prize at the European Press Prize ceremony in London for their work.

The prize was founded in 2012 by seven European media foundations to honour ideas - presentational, technical or in terms of editorial techniques - that has «made a clear contribution to journalism's future». It is inspired by its American counterpart, the Pulitzer Prize.

- It is not often that Norwegian journalists are awarded prestigious international prizes. It is a big deal and a great honour that we are now European champions of journalistic innovation. The series «Null CTRL» is an extraordinary piece of digital journalism, and I wish to congratulate the team for working purposefully with the project for so many months, Dagbladet's editor-in-chief John Arne Markussen said.

Inspired by hacker In the process, Dagbladet uncovered 290 vulnerable control systems in banks, schools, nursing homes and military camps, 2048 surveillance cameras in private homes, night clubs, shops and restaurants, and 2500 control systems connected to the Internet with minimal or no security. 500 of these control industrial or critical infrastructure.

In addition, the journalists found thousands of data bases and servers that give away content without passwords.

- As a result of this work, several security flaws have been fixed, rules have been changed and many people have been made aware of possible loopholes. Rarely has a series of newspaper articles had such profound consequences for the public at large, Markussen said.

Mr. Sandli and Mrs. Hillestad say the idea for the series came during an interview with a computer hacker early last year.

- We became aware that there are legitimate ways to find out what systems and computer units are connected to the internet. The journalistic potential was obvious, Espen Sandli said.

- We wanted to find out what we as non-experts in computer security were able to reveal online. As it turned out, there was quite a lot - including stuff that compromised the privacy of ordinary citizens and stuff that could represent a danger to the national security, he said.

Highly advanced Sandli, Hillestad and Strømman have previously been awarded the Rosling prize for computer security by the Norwegian Computer Society for their articles.

The General Secretary of the Association of Norwegian Editors, Mr. Arne Jensen, said the European Press Prize is a great honour to receive and another proof that Norwegian journalists are highly advanced both in regards to content and presentation.

- That a Norwegian newspaper is awarded the Innovation Prize is particularly gratifying considering the challenges of the media business as a whole. The prize is awarded by a panel of judges that includes several heavyweights in European journalism, he said.

His colleague in the Norwegian Press Association, Mrs. Kjersti Løken Stavrum, also wish to congratulate Dagbladet.

- The article series raise important issues on computer security that are unknown for most readers. The European Press Prize should inspire other journalists to work with similar investigations, she said.