The importance of a secure 5G network

2020-10-20

Unlawful intelligence activities carried out by hostile nations have intensified in the last few years. Several countries carry out espionage and security-threatening activities against Sweden to an extent that harms the security of our nation. The conditions for granting permits for taking part in the auctioning out of radio frequencies in the 5G network that the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority has recently decided on are in line with the measures that the Swedish Security Service deems necessary to build the 5G network in a manner that is not harmful to Sweden's national security.

“Some 15 states carry out various forms of security-threating activities in Sweden, and such activities have intensified in the last five years. Hostile nations, investing great amounts of time and money, and using considerable technical resources and staffing, are systematically attacking Sweden and Swedish activities,” says Klas Friberg, Head of the Swedish Security Service.

The Government and the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) have assessed the future 5G network to be part of the critical infrastructure of Sweden. In other words, it will be considered a highly critical asset that must be protected. For this reason, the Riksdag has decided that permits will be granted only when it is assessed that the use of the radio frequencies would not risk harming Sweden's national security. To ensure this, the legislator has ordered the Post and Telecom Authority, which is the deciding body for granting permits for taking part in the auctioning out of radio frequencies, to consult with the Swedish Security Service and the Swedish Armed Forces concerning Sweden’s security before granting such a permit.

“Together, the Swedish Security Service and the Swedish Armed Forces have the complete picture of the security situation of Sweden and what threats are posed to the nation. The 5G network needs to be built in a secure manner from the start, and the decisions on permit conditions that the Post and Telecom Authority has made are beneficial to Sweden's national security,” says Klas Friberg.

The opinion of the Swedish Security Service on the proposal is based on the policy document prepared by the Swedish Security Service and the Swedish Armed Forces. This document describes how the future 5G network must be built to ensure its security. For example, it must be built to prevent controlling, manipulation and unlawful collection of information, and to prevent hostile attacks. A risk assessment must also be made of the operators and suppliers that will be building the network.

“Year round and on a daily basis, attacks are made on Sweden and actions are taken against it by hostile states wanting to access information and to use this information to strengthen their own states or to exert influence on Sweden. This type of espionage affects our economy and our political decision-making processes; it also affects our rights and freedoms and our territorial sovereignty,” says Klas Friberg.

While unlawful intelligence activities have intensified, new vulnerabilities have continuously appeared hand-in-hand with technological developments, and this has made it easier for hostile states to carry out their security-threatening activities. It follows from this that technological developments, including the development of 5G, engender challenges for Sweden's national security.

“China is one of the greatest threats to Sweden. The Chinese state carries out cyber espionage in order to promote its own economic development and to develop its military capability. It does so through comprehensive intelligence collection and theft of technology, research and development. This is something we have to take into account as the 5G network is being built. We cannot make compromises when it comes to Sweden's national security,” says Klas Friberg.

 

Facts: Under Regulation (2003:396) on Electronic Communications, the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority, when considering an application for a permit to use a radio transmitter, must consult with the Swedish Security Service and the Swedish Armed Forces in order to determine whether granting such a permit could be potentially harmful to Sweden's national security.