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A Russian figher jet photographed by a Swedish signal aircraft. Photo: TT. Credit: FRA

Cyber threats and Baltic activity means more work for the FRA

"Need and demand for our reporting"
7:18 min

A "deteriorating global security development" has increased the demands for the services provided by the FRA, the national agency for gathering signals intelligence and providing computer security to Swedish authorities. 

The FRA (or the National Defence Radio Establishment) provides signal intelligence to the Swedish Armed Forces and the Swedish Intelligence and Security Service (Säpo). But its biggest customer, according to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN), is the Swedish government. In particular the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence.

On Tuesday, the FRA's annual report for 2015 was released. Fredrik Wallin, a spokesperson for the authority, told Radio Sweden that three areas characterized 2015.

"We have had an increase of military activity in the Baltic area. And we've also had an increase in the terrorist threat level in Sweden, partly as a result of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe. And the new challenge with meeting the cyber threats," he said.

Military activity in the Baltic are the main focus of the FRA, said Wallin, but last year's terrorist attacks in Europe means the FRA spends time tracking organizations that may pose a threat to Sweden. Wallin indicated that did not mean the FRA targeted individual suspected terrorists.

"In general we do not direct our activities against persons," said Wallin. "we are interested in terrorist organizations. We do not follow individuals."

Cyber attacks against government targets and Swedish companies for intelligence purposes as well as industrial espionage has been on the rise. Wallin said that had much to do with Sweden's high level of digital connectivity. Wallin said the FRA did not name the specific countries that are antagonists.

"Partly because we do not want to let them know that we know what they're doing," he said.

Many people still remember the debate in 2008 about giving the FRA the ability to listen to phone calls or monitor data traffic. Have public relations changed?

"We learned a lot from that debate, that we needed to be more open. And tell the public what we are actually doing. There were many misconceptions about our activities from that time like that we are listening to domestic phone calls and things like that. But in fact are activities are directed against foreign targets," said Wallin.

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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