Dozens of foreign intelligence officers conducting operations in Finland
The country is interesting especially for Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies. Some foreign spies are trying to "control and exert pressure" on their citizens living permanently in Finland. Experts of the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service have also identified "groups and individuals" with motivation and capacity to carry out a terrorist attack.
Foreign intelligence activities targeting Finland remain "active" and "large scale", as reported in the latest national security review by the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (SUPO).
According to SUPO's assessment, "dozens of foreign intelligence officers are permanently stationed in Finland". Furthermore, it is estimated that "approximately the same number of foreign intelligence officers carry out short-term operational assignments in Finland every year," says a summary of the review published on 5 December.
"Finland is of interest especially for Russian and Chinese intelligence services," remarked SUPO. Primary intelligence aims include forecasting Finland’s policies in various fields and influencing political decisions. In addition, foreign intelligence services take interest in Finnish technology and the related know-how.
NATO, EU sanctions and technology
"Intelligence services have some permanent topics they follow. In addition to those, primary topics of interest have recently been, among others, Finland’s actions as EU Presidency, Finland’s position in EU’s sanctions policy, national innovation activity, and high technology products", says SUPO Director Antti Pelttari.
SUPO believes that, in the longer term, those "foreign states" also have interest in the fields of foreign and security policy, relations between the EU and NATO, the Finnish energy policy, Arctic dimension and the security situation in the Baltic Sea region.
These are all topics that fit within the list of priorities of the Russian intelligence officers in Western Europe.
Pressure on foreign citizens
The national security review also emphasizes how in the last few years intelligence actors "have been increasingly interested in investments made in Finland's critical infrastructure and other strategic fields".
In addition the assessment describes how security and intelligence services "of certain states" make efforts to "control and exert pressure on their current or former citizens living permanently or temporarily in Finland."
Citizens of other countries who reside in Finland or persons belonging to the native population may also become targets or such activity.
SUPO has observed that foreign intelligence services also show interest in Finland's new intelligence legislation, as well as cyber security structures and protection against information influencing.
The terrorist threat
The Finnish intelligence experts think it is likely that in the short run, the terrorist threat will remain elevated (level 2 on the four-level scale." One significant factor affecting this threat is the possible return of foreign terrorist fighters from the conflict zone in Syria and Iraq.
According to the National Security Review, in Finland "there is significant support activity for terrorism, but the country does not seem to be a prime target of terrorist attacks".
However, SUPO has identified "groups and individuals who have both motivation and capacity to carry out a terrorist attack." The most significant threat is posed by individual actors or small cells motivated by radical Islamist propaganda.
The 'Islamic State' or ISIL terrorist organization with its supporters "remains a global threat and tries to develop new tactics in order to mount attacks," explains the review.
State-run cyber espionage
Besides human intelligence, Finland is continuously targeted by cyber operations for the purposes of state-run espionage, mapping the technical environment or exerting influence. In addition to public administration, targets have also included key R&D information of companies and confidential communications of individuals.
Critical infrastructure ending up in the control of a state conducting active cyberespionage or cyber influencing constitutes a threat to national security already before the spying state decides to act.
"This should be taken into account proactively in projects concerning critical infrastructure, such as investing in the 5G network", Director Pelttari says.