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Sweden Urges Vigilance Against Foreign Subversion Without Naming Names

CC0 / / Surveillance
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Several cases of spies working for key Swedish agencies have been investigated in the past year, the Swedish Security Service SÄPO revealed in its 2016 annual report. People employed by the Swedish authorities had reportedly been "of assistance" to "foreign powers," by which Swedish officials usually mean Russia.

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Fredrik Agemark, the head of the SÄPO department in charge of security protection, stated at a press conference, where the annual report was presented, that these cases included spying within agencies considered crucial to Sweden's democracy and security interests and involved the attempts of foreign powers to recruit operatives.

"Intelligence gathering goes on in our country, we keep seeing people being approached, we're seeing electronic attacks, with all available means being used," SÄPO chief Anders Thornberg said, as quoted by the Swedish news outlet The Local. He added that his agency intervenes before anyone becomes a full-fledged foreign spy.

SÄPO's most recent report also revealed considerable weaknesses in several agencies, including its own safety network. This prompted its chief Anders Thornberg to write an opinion piece in the Swedish Daily Dagens Nyheter, which advocates combined efforts by Swedish bodies to plug the "widening gap between threats and protection."

"We have investigated several cases of state-sponsored electronic attacks against agencies and businesses important for national defense. It shows that there are real and serious threats to Sweden's security," Anders Thornberg said, as quoted by Swedish Radio.

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Thornberg acknowledged several cyberattacks carried out by foreign powers with the intention of accessing information or simply disrupting Sweden's activity, but neglected to mention what state or states were behind the attempts, or to report their number.

"We can see from the extent and the level of the attacks that skilled actors are behind them, and this ability is found in state actors," Fredrik Agemark told Swedish Radio.

According to Agemark, building and maintaining a functioning security system is the best way to ward off threats. Last year, SÄPO recruited 200 analysts, technicians and programmers and is poised to recruit employ another 100 in the next few years.

Earlier in March, SÄPO sounded the alarm about foreign powers systematically attacking the Swedish telecom sector. According to SÄPO, it was due to hacking attacks on security systems and the attempted recruiting of key people in the industry, which may prove fatal in times of crisis, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported.

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Whereas SÄPO again would not specify what countries were behind the disruptive efforts, for intelligence expert Johan Wiktorin there were but few alternatives, which reflected Swedes' frame of mind, where Russia is constantly viewed as the biggest threat.

"If you look at the countries that might reasonably have both the intention and the capacity, it's about Russia and China. The former for defense reasons, and the latter, rather for, economic reasons," Johan Wiktorin told SVT.

So far, however, none of the revelations have led to trial or prosecution.


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