Pandemic poses security threat

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Norway’s intelligence agencies presented a joint review this year of what they consider the most pressing threats to national security, and warned that the Corona virus crisis is playing a new role. They also claimed that Islamic and right-wing extremists pose the greatest threat of actual attacks, while Russia and China still want to exert influence.

The military intelligence agency’s annual report offers its evaluation of threats against Norway, presented this year along with police intelligence agency PST and officials from the national security authority NSM.  PHOTO: Forsvaret/Torbjørn Kjosvold

Spying in and on Norway was determined to be “stable and high” and the overall threat of terror was “moderate.” Police intelligence agency PST (Politiets sikkertjeneste) ranked the threat at “3” on a scale of 1 to 5, meaning an attack was “possible” and “just as probable as improbable.”

PST, which arrested a teenager from Syria late last week and charged him with plotting a terrorist attack, believes the threat from extremist Islamists has sharpened but so has that from radicalization of right-wing extremists. In both cases, the current pandemic is playing a role because of social isolation.

“That can contribute towards more people spending more time on the Internet,” cautioned PST in its report. Some individuals, it noted, can be pulled into more extreme online communities.

The pandemic and all the Corona containment measures that have restricted travel, mobility and other aspects of personal freedom can also raise frustration levels among many. The vast majority of Norwegians have cooperated with health- and government authorities’ ever-changing regulations and social shutdowns, but impatience and opposition can arise in Norway, too, as they already has in several other countries.

“We’re warning against this in Norway because we have seen it in other countries,” PST chief Hans Sverre Sjøvold told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Top government officials, viewed as responsible for many unpopular Corona-related restrictions, can also become targets of public frustration.

The pandemic can also make Norway more vulnerable to hacking and other forms of cyber attacks. Widespread use of home offices and the need for “quick digital solutions” for virus tracking and other other Corona-related issues “can make us more vulnerable” to hacking, warned the security experts. Several Norwegian companies have been targeted already and Norway’s Parliament was the victim of a cyber attack last autumn that PST has concluded that Russia was behind. Sjøvold wouldn’t elaborate, however, on whether it was part of any effort to influence the upcoming national election in September.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund