Säkerhetspolisen 2023/24

A serious security situation

An unstable world has an impact on Sweden. Overlapping, mutually reinforcing threats make for a complex threat scenario. This serious security situation is likely to persist, affecting the threat posed by foreign powers and violent extremism alike.

Charlotte von Essen, Head of theSwedish Security Service.

Charlotte von Essen, Head of theSwedish Security Service.

Deniable attacks, disinformation, systematic security threats, and a terrorist threat that remains high; the threats to Sweden are complex, overlapping and mutually reinforcing. External threats affect internal security. We must all be prepared for the situation to deteriorate.

The Swedish Security Service is aware of activities that threaten national security in all of our operational areas, including counter-espionage, protective security, counter-terrorism, counter-subversion and dignitary protection. We work intensely, in all of our operational areas, to counter the threats to our country.

Sweden must not become a platform for foreign powers or violent extremists. Our protectees must be able to perform their duties safely and securely. Sweden must safeguard what is most valuable to us, including our secrets.

As a national security service, we must be able to handle threats both in the short and long term, whether direct or indirect. In a gradually deteriorating situation, it can be difficult to discern escalation. Events and perspectives must be viewed as a whole to reveal the bigger picture. Being able to cooperate and share information with our partners is crucial to creating the most detailed situational picture possible.

We can be better at protecting ourselves. Much has already been done, and is being done, but there is room for improvement.

Foreign powers engage in systematic security- threatening activities against Sweden on a broad scale, from acquiring technology to carrying out cyberattacks in order to steal information and knowledge. They also attempt to influence Swedish decision-making, gather information on the activities of dissidents, and plan attacks against individuals in Sweden.

The war in Ukraine continues to impact the security situation in Europe and Sweden. The outcome of Russia’s war will affect the threat to Sweden in terms of Russia’s risk appetite as concerns influence operations and sabotage against targets in the West. We also know that Russia is in great need of technology and equipment to maintain its military capabilities for the war in Ukraine, and that it is willing to use both legal and illegal means to obtain it. As a country at the forefront of research, development and innovation, Sweden is an attractive target.

In addition to Russia, China and Iran pose the greatest threats to Sweden. These countries strive, and to some extent cooperate, to bring about a change in the global security order, and they are becoming more aggressive in pursuit of their goals. Their activities may also become a threat to the security of other Western countries, and we must do everything in our power to prevent foreign powers from strengthening their capabilities at the expense of Sweden and other countries.

New arenas mean new vulnerabilities

The attention of foreign powers is also being focused on new areas that affect Swedish interests, such as the Arctic with its raw materials and strategic location. The militarisation of space will also have consequences for Sweden, as many of our security-sensitive activities and essential services are dependent on space-related services. Rapid technological development in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) presents opportunities, but also new threats and vulnerabilities.

In the past year, the Swedish Security Service has had to handle the consequences of a new negative portrayal of Sweden. Strong reactions to Qur’an burnings, combined with disinformation campaigns such as claims that Swedish authorities routinely kidnap Muslim children, and the portrayal of Sweden as anti-Islamic, has led to Sweden being considered a more legitimate target for violent extremists.

As a result, the terrorist threat level has been raised to high (level four on the five-level scale). This was made clear by the tragic attack in Brussels, in which Swedes were killed and injured simply because of their nationality. The image of Sweden has ultimately become a matter of national security.

Conflicts in the Middle East, including the fighting between the terrorist organisation Hamas and Israel, have contributed to polarisation and has an influence on actors in Sweden. Violent extremists exploit troubled times to spread distrust, especially online. This may affect lone actors or groups to move from thought to action, sometimes guided by actors abroad. Such developments are exploited by foreign powers.

The Swedish Security Service cooperates nationally and internationally with security services and police authorities to counter violent extremism and terrorism. We carefully analyse and assess developments so that we can act when needed. Much of our work must be carried out covertly. As a national security service,
our aim is often to intervene at an early stage to prevent a serious incident.

Overlapping, mutually reinforcing threats

Foreign powers employ proxies to carry out security- threatening activities in order to achieve aims such as damaging Sweden’s reputation and increasing polarisation. This can have a knock-on effect on other courses of events, such as Sweden’s NATO process or the terrorist threat. Foreign powers use proxies to disguise their involvement. We know that foreign actors exploited last year’s Qur’an burnings to divert Sweden’s focus. These threats overlap and thus grow stronger.

When anti-government forces and violent extremists disseminate conspiracy theories and disinformation about Sweden’s decline, this risks undermining confidence in Swedish society and our democratic system. Generally speaking, trust in the institutions of society remains high. That said, we must take these signals seriously. Society as a whole must continue working to maintain trust and confidence in its institutions and political decision-making.

In the serious global situation we find ourselves in, it is of the utmost importance that we demonstrate the will to defend ourselves and our democracy. While the Swedish Security Service works purposefully and on a long-term basis to prevent and avert attacks and activities in order to make Sweden a less attractive platform, there are many other stakeholders who must also take crucial measures.

Developments place demands on protective security

The global situation makes it increasingly important to protect security-sensitive activities, essential services and critical infrastructure, such as our energy supply, transports, telecommunications, and financial sector. Sweden must be prepared to counter attacks of various kinds, including subversive activities such as cyber attacks, attacks on critical infrastructure, and influence operations.

We can be better at protecting ourselves. Much has already been done, and is being done, but there is room for improvement. One crucial aspect is to better protect our most valuable secrets, many of which are in digital form. Those who carry out security-sensitive activities and vital societal functions are increasingly aware of the necessity of protective security. That said, major flaws and vulnerabilities remain and can be exploited by capable threat actors.

As the understanding of the threats to Sweden’s internal security increases, we note a greater willingness in society to contribute and make a difference. This
is also reflected in the number of applications to work at the Swedish Security Service.

Only together can we build resilience. We must learn to live with this deteriorated security situation, to take it seriously and to act accordingly. It is time to concentrate our efforts to counter the threats to our security.


Swedish Security Service

The Security Service prevents and detects offences against national security, fights terrorism and protects the central Government.

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