News from the world of higher education
News from the world of higher education
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Espionage against Swedish higher education institutions continues to increase

Intelligence activities directed at Swedish higher education institutions by foreign powers are still on the rise. Russia, China and Iran pose the greatest threats, writes Säpo, the Swedish Security Service, in its 2022/2023 Security Service Yearbook.

Linus Hellerstedt
Säpo writes that Sweden is an attractive country for foreign powers that "illegally strive to acquire of both knowledge, information and technology".

Sweden’s open research and business climate makes it a ”favourable environment to work in” for Russia and other countries, writes Säpo, the Swedish Security Service, in its yearbook. Säpo also wrote in last year’s yearbook that how China, Russia and Iran pose the biggest threats to Swedish security.

According to Säpo, Sweden is an attractive country for foreign powers that ”illegally strive to acquire of both knowledge, information and technology”. As Universitetsläraren has previously reported, that view is shared by several security managers at Swedish higher education institutions.

Chinese intelligence activity
China continues to be one of the biggest threats, and both private Chinese actors and state bodies conduct intelligence activities directed at Swedish research institutions. ”Swedish technology, products, knowledge and information are deemed to be of great value to China’s military development,” writes Säpo in its 2022/2023 yearbook.

Research and business exchanges, various recruitment programmes aimed at gathering knowledge and strategic takeovers of Swedish companies are examples of activities that can pose serious security threats for Sweden. Research and innovation have traditionally been China’s main targets, although in recent years they have also begun to target Swedish politics, writes Säpo.

”The acquisition of technology and knowledge and the activities of the Chinese state in Sweden are not always illegal, but they pose a threat to Sweden’s security. In Sweden, there is still a relatively widespread ignorance of the Chinese threat, which in itself constitutes a major vulnerability,” comments Henrik Edwinsson, senior analyst at Säpo, in the yearbook.

Iran and Russia
Iran is another threat, as the country acquires knowledge of Swedish technology through unauthorised methods and uses Swedish universities and colleges to ”develop its capabilities”, according to Säpo.

The third major threat, just as Säpo described in last year’s yearbook, is Russia. Sweden has experienced increased Russian intelligence activity since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.

”The global situation and the war in Ukraine have increased Russia’s need for technology acquisition in order to maintain its military capability,” adds Edwinsson,

Säpo reports that Sweden is not only an attractive target because it is at the forefront in a number of areas that are of particular interest to Russia. It also says that the open research and business climate in Sweden makes it a ”favourable environment to work in”, both for Russia and other countries.

Linus Hellerstedt

Universitetsläraren conforms strictly to journalistic principles and follows the media industry’s rules on publication and professional ethics. The magazine is free and independent of its owner, SULF – the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers.
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