Attempts to influence confidence in the election process

2018-08-31

The Swedish Security Service has noted attempts to damage confidence in the election process and the democratic system in view of the 9 September elections. Currently these activities are within what we expected, and do not put the election result at risk.

Information received to this point by the Security Service concerns discussions on electoral fraud, hijacked and fake social media accounts, and disinformation spread via social media with the aim of polarizing society before the elections. Other examples include distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and hacking attempts targeting political parties and key election services.

"The activities we are seeing are within what we expected. In this context it’s important to remember that the election and the election result are well protected. We will have a reliable election result, also in case of a DDoS attack on a website providing election-related information", says Linda Escar, Deputy Head of Protective Security.

Complicated investigations

The Security Service currently cannot see any extensive influence operations suspected of being orchestrated by foreign powers. That said, there are examples of attempts by foreign powers to polarize Swedish society by making the country look bad. International media, for instance in Russia, have extensively featured images and articles on car fires in western Sweden and demonstrations in Stockholm, with the aim of describing a country in chaos.

"It’s not currently possible to establish who is behind the reported activities. Such investigations are complicated, take time and involve joint intelligence efforts between our Service and other agencies. As with all intelligence work, it’s about piecing together a giant puzzle. In parallel with this, we take measures to reduce vulnerabilities", says Linda Escar.

"We have seen this type of activity before. Influence operations happen all the time, but we now see an increase. There is also an increase compared with the 2014 elections", she continues.

Preventive efforts have paid off

In the run-up to the elections, the Security Service has dedicated extensive resources to information, education and cooperation in order to increase awareness of the fact that influence operations aiming to damage public confidence in the election process and our democratic system may happen.

"We can now see that the preventive efforts we have engaged in since early 2017 have paid off. People are more aware and alert than before, and this has increased national resilience. This, and the fact that we have an election system that is difficult to influence, will ensure a legitimate election result", says Linda Escar.

"It’s important to critically evaluate any sources of information. If you discover anything that seems odd, be sure to report it to the competent authorities", Linda Escar concludes.

The Security Service and the 2018 elections in Sweden