Folk och Försvar in Sälen. File photo: TT.
File photo: TT

Young Pirates tapped defence conference internet traffic

"We caught them with their pants down, so to speak"
6:14 min

As the debate about surveillance once again surfaces following the terrorist attacks in France last week, the youth wing of the Pirate Party made an unusual move at the Folk och Försvar defence conference in central Sweden this week, to give politicians what they say is a taste of their own medicine.

The Folk och Försvar conference is the big defence gathering in Sweden each year. Government ministers, top politicians, representatives from the Swedish military as well as journalists and experts gather to discuss the big issues in the world of defence. This time much of the focus was on whether Sweden should join NATO, the state of the Swedish military and what threat Russia poses.

Also at the conference were members of the youth wing of Sweden's Pirate Party. Outspoken opponents to wire-tapping and government surveillance on the internet. So to prove a point, they played a bit of a trick on some of the people at the conference. They set up an open guest wi-fi hotspot at the conference venue, and when conference participants connected, the Young Pirates collected data on what websites the participants visited.

"They were talking about information security, and how great a job that they do, and then we caught them with their pants down, so to speak", Young Pirates head Gustav Ripå tells Radio Sweden.

"We wanted to raise the issue of mass surveillance", he adds, "we wanted to show how it works, and we used the same principles as the NSA and the Swedish FRA. The side-effect was that we could see that people working at the big crisis and emergency organisations in Sweden were using our open hotspot to access their mail and internal stuff, that's really a security threat."

One of those organisations is the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), and their Robert Jonsson says the authority obviously still has work to do when it comes to teaching employees about information security.

"Apparently it is not as good as it should be, and this is very embarrassing for us and something we need to address", he told Radio Sweden, "but I'm sure that the people from MSB have only been using it for usual internet stuff. It is not forbidden to use open internet networks, but you should be aware of which services you access while you are doing that."

There are many open networks all over the country, which many people log on to for a bit of free wi-fi. Jonsson adds that information about what websites you are visiting will be visible to any owner of an internet network, but the content of any e-mails will probably be encrypted and not accessible. He recommends not accessing online banks while surfing on an open hotspot, for example.

Other Swedish authorities are now looking into whether the collection of data by the Young Pirates broke data protection laws.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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