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Supo’s jubilee year marked by new intelligence legislation – possibilities to counter threats to national security will be considerably improved

Publication date 21.3.2019 9.00 | Published in English on 13.10.2020 at 16.12
Press release

The new intelligence legislation offers the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) better possibilities to counter the most serious threats to national security, such as foreign intelligence against Finland and terrorism.

According to Supo’s new yearbook, especially state-run cyber espionage was active in 2018. Finland is of interest in intelligence terms particularly to Russia and China.

Supo will be 70 years old this year and to celebrate the event, the yearbook published today is more extensive than usually.

The new intelligence legislation will significantly enhance Supo’s intelligence capacities

In the future also, one of Supo’s key functions will be to prevent threats to national security, such as espionage and terrorism. Nevertheless, Supo’s role in producing proactive and analysed intelligence information to the national leadership also takes on new importance in the future.

- The last few years have been an era of rapid change for Supo and the new legislation will transform the agency into a genuinely modern security and intelligence service, says Supo Director Antti Pelttari.

The change has become necessary because Finland’s security environment has evolved rapidly in the last few years.

- The past few years have seen an increased threat of terrorism, while developments in the near abroad have further intensified the illegal intelligence operations of foreign powers targeting Finland. It is our duty to ensure, for our part, that Finland remains the world’s safest country also in the future.

Supo will be 70 years old this year, and the Finnish Security Police will also celebrate its centenary. To celebrate the jubilee year, Supo published today its yearbook that is more extensive than usually and includes also an overview on the history of the agency, written by Professor Kimmo Rentola.

The world of cyber espionage has become more aggressive

The intelligence legislation will considerably intensify Supo’s activity e.g. in countering cyber espionage, with network traffic intelligence enabling direct detection of the cyber espionage operations of foreign powers over information networks.

- The world of cyber espionage has become more aggressive, now even including forcible intrusion in systems, explains Jyrki Kaipanen, the head of cyber functions at Supo in the agency’s yearbook.

Supo learned of several cyber espionage cases considered to involve foreign government sponsorship in 2018. This espionage targeted the Finnish government and also businesses and private individuals.

Cyber espionage no longer necessarily targets the organisation of interest directly, but focuses on less security-conscious organisations and individuals that are closely associated with the target. Entities close to the target may be used either directly in information gathering or as channel of access to the systems of the actual target.

Especially Russian and Chinese intelligence services are interested in Finland

The number of foreign intelligence service representatives stationed in Finland is still quite high in relation to the size of the country. Finland is of interest particularly to Russian and Chinese intelligence services.

Foreign intelligence activity aims at forecasting Finland’s policies in various fields and influencing political decisions. Like in the previous years, the primary topics of interest for foreign intelligence in Finland in 2018 were e.g. the debate on NATO, foreign and security political strategies, Finland’s position on EU sanctions policy, and the security situation in the Baltic Sea region.

In addition, Supo observed in 2018 that foreign intelligence services also showed interest in Finland’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the intelligence legislation under preparation, and Finland’s international military cooperation.

Even though cyber espionage is more active than before, intelligence services still try to find and recruit clandestine human sources with a view to obtaining information that is not publicly available.

Foreign intelligence organisations also sought to recruit individuals to assist in providing either direct or indirect influence over political decisions and public opinion.

Terrorist threat remained at level Elevated

In 2018, the terrorist threat assessment remained at level 2 (Elevated) on the four-level scale. The most significant terrorist threat in Finland is still posed by individual actors or small groups motivated by radical Islamist propaganda or terrorist organisations encouraging them. These persons are likely to have either direct or indirect links to radical Islamist networks or organisations.

Supo has around 370 counterterrorism (CT) targets. An increasing percentage have taken part in armed conflict, expressed willingness to participate in armed activity, or received terrorist training. Foreign terrorist fighters left from Finland have gained significant positions within ISIL in particular and have an extensive network of relations within the organisation.

Further information

Supo’s yearbook provides more detailed information on all the aforementioned topics. The yearbook also reveals, for example, why Supo shows interest in the climate change and how it was possible to disclose a foreign espionage operation through surveillance, and casts a glance at history.