Swedish Election 2018 — A Preliminary Assessment

Mikael Tofvesson, Head of Global Monitoring and Analysis, Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency

As a part of Sweden’s preparations to protect the Swedish election, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) investigated influence activities targeting elections in other countries and conducted a vulnerability study regarding the Swedish election process and organisation.

Election interference is only a part of a long-term influence campaign aiming at weakening a future government and its ability to act internationally. The aggressor is using a whole of society approach to interfere with the election. To be able to understand the impact of an influence campaign, you have to identify the vulnerable areas that are under attack. Looking at other elections and comparing the methods of the attacks, MSB assessed that four areas, relevant to Sweden, were targeted:

  • The election process and its integrity
  • The will and ability of the population to vote
  • The political preferences
  • The trustworthiness of the political leadership

Influence campaigns against elections were effective when:

  • There was a lack of awareness about the threat and the vulnerabilities to the threats in a society.
  • There was a weak or non-existing cooperation between the political decisions makers, agencies and authorities conducting the election and among the agencies protecting the country against foreign influence.

As a response to the threat and the identified vulnerabilities in the Swedish election, MSB implemented a wide range of activities and supported other organisations in their work to conduct and safeguard the election. MSB developed and implemented capabilities in four areas:

  • Identifying information influence activities by monitoring vulnerable areas in our society and threat actor’s activities.
  • Coordination/Cooperation between the authorities and agencies conducting and protecting the election.
  • Information sharing among all relevant stakeholders.
  • Awareness about our own vulnerabilities and the threat with a whole of society approach.