The Swedish Counter-Intelligence Report on Hostile Russian Activities in the Region in a Comparative Context

IBM Blade Center with two HS22 and twelve HS21 Blade servers installed. Courtesy Bob Mical/Flickr

This article was originally published by PISM on 24 March 2016.

The Swedish counter-intelligence service’s latest annual assessments highlight the growing interest of Russian intelligence in Sweden’s national security issues. Soon after the publication of the unclassified version of the report, a series of cyberattacks on Swedish media took place. The increase in hostile Russian intelligence activities has been seen as connected to a public debate about the prospects for closer relations between Sweden and NATO. The U.S. perception of the Russian threats presented by Sweden’s counter-intelligence services does not deviate from public assessments by other Scandinavian countries’ assessments. This might suggest that the increased Russian activities are part of some broader strategy concerning Northern Europe.

On 17 March 2016, the Swedish Security Service (Säkerhetspolisen, or SÄPO) published an unclassified version of its annual assessment of intelligence and terrorist threats. The chapter on Russian disinformation and psychological operations stirred public interest and was followed by a series of coordinated and massive cyberattacks (DDoS-style, or “distributed denial of service”) on a number of websites in Sweden. A DDoS attack on 19 March resulted in seven of the main Swedish newspapers’ internet portals being unavailable.

Behind Walls or Out in the Open? The Challenges of Protecting and Sharing Information

Newest ISN OSINT Report

ISN OSINT Report 4/2010

In this year’s final OSINT Report Florian Schaurer and Jan Störger examine the prevalent classification and safeguarding procedures in place for sensitive national security information. They provide a synopsis of definitions, and cast light on the complex interplay between officially required secrecy and publicly desired transparency.

The report also addresses the implications of over-classification on the one hand, and authorized or unauthorized disclosures (‘leaks’) of classified information on the other, raising awareness in the interest of more balanced governmental information security and sharing.

Please find previous ISN OSINT Reports here.

Learning Intelligence

Chris Pallaris of i-intelligence explaining intelligence tools to ISN staff, image: Emilie Boillat/ISN

In order to be able to offer increasingly intelligent services, we are educating ourselves. This week, the ISN team is taking a workshop on “Skills in Intelligence Collection and Analysis.”

Let’s start with an intelligence problem. Thinking about the US mid-terms, we wondered about the future of the US during a coffee break. Our (bold) question: Might the US disintegrate over the course of the next decade?

Applying the methodology taught by Chris Pallaris of i-intelligence, we’d first analyze the problem by taking it apart. Intelligence analysis is problem-solving. As any good intelligence problem, our question asks for a predictive answer. Intelligence IS prediction.

The first step would be to make our assumptions concerning the US and its future explicit by writing them down. Assumptions are key to our thinking but need to be watched closely and examined critically because they may lead us to a  biased answer. Next, we would formulate hypotheses. As many as possible. We would develop indicators to monitor the stability and future prospects of the US. We would need to have a collection plan to guide the accumulation of information. In doing this, ‘source awareness’ helps us look for information in the right places.

Our problem may not demand an immediate answer. It may, as Chris put it, be a “wicked problem” that has no neat answer at all. We needn’t hurry. The tension between an accurate prediction crafted with care and time, and the limited amount of time available for decision-making and action, however, is always there. The longer we wait in answering the question at hand, the less time there is for our government to look for new allies and to do contingency planning.

Do you think our speculations are unrealistic? Well, intelligence is also about thinking the unthinkable.

We hope the ISN keeps inspiring you and catering to your intelligence needs with the resources we offer in the Digital Library and the analyses we provide with ISN Insights.