Swedish security agency warns Russia may target telco networks


The Swedish Security Service (SAPO) called for vigilance from critical infrastructure operators, warning that ‘unpredictable’ Russia could disrupt key sectors using unorthodox methods

The new year is upon us and sadly the war in Ukraine shows no signs of stopping, with reports in recent weeks suggesting that Russia plans to mobilise up to half a million additional conscripts in preparation for a major spring offensive.

Now, in parallel to the fierce fighting ongoing in the Donbas, the Swedish security agency SAPO is warning Europe to remain vigilant of less direct kinds of warfare: espionage and sabotage of critical infrastructure.

Speaking at the People and Defense conference in Salen, Sweden, the head of SAPO, Charlotte von Essen, said that Russia poses a growing threat to the Sweden’s critical infrastructure – a threat that could extend beyond the country’s borders to the rest of Europe.

Von Essen noted that the Swedish telecoms sector and electrical grid were both likely targets, suggesting that “Russian security-threatening activities” against these industries were likely to increase in the coming year.

“From the Russian side, there is an interest in disturbing these areas,” she explained, highlighting the far-reaching implications such attacks could have for society, even beyond Swedish borders. “These are sectors where attacks against Sweden could cause damage to the rest of Europe as well.”

Von Essen noted that the Russian state would not only use official channels, such as government agencies, to conduct these attacks, but would leverage “the Russian diaspora, institutions and companies in Sweden”.

Russia has a long history of cybercrime against foreign nations, in recent years coming to prominence for high-profile attacks seeking to undermine various Western governments, including interference in US presidential elections.

Naturally, Russia has been conducting cyberwarfare against Ukraine on a massive scale since the start of the war, coupling the shelling of critical infrastructure with cyberattacks on the company networks. In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials have called for Russian cyber attacks on critical and civilian infrastructure to be categorised as war crimes.

Russia is also accused of using stolen network data to identify and persecute Ukrainian supporters in occupied regions of the country.

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