Constitution Protection Bureau: 2022 brought 'most intense cyber-attacks so far'

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On February 28, the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) published the unclassified part of its annual report for the year 2022. SAB is one of three national security authorities in Latvia. The others are the State Security Service (VDD) and the Defence Intelligence and Security Service (MIDD). 

SAB’s main tasks include intelligence and counter-intelligence activities as well as protection of classified information

"Russia continues its confrontational and aggressive policy towards the West. Its aim remains to divide the West’s unity against Russia," said SAB in one of its more obvious conclusions.

"It is in Russia’s best interests to promote internal tensions and public dissatisfaction with the government or economic situation in Western countries, assuming that domestic problems could push certain European countries into reducing their political focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine," SAB says in a summary of the report's content, which is dominated by Russia. Nearly three-quarters of the report's 42 pages concern Russia and Belarus.

“In addition to military operations, Russia is also actively developing informational influence operations. Having a border with Russia, Latvia is particularly affected by this – the historical memory of the Latvian society, as well as the geopolitical environment of our country and the large Russian-speaking population have a significant impact in this situation,” said director of SAB Egils Zviedris.

There is a high probability that Russia may decide to completely stop supplying energy resources to European countries in order to punish them for supporting Ukraine, states the report.

As regards domestic matters, SAB said it paid increased attention to the activities of "propaganda media, financed and supported by Russia," during the period leading up to Saeima elections in October 2022, but that "No coordinated information influence operations were directly detected."

"Even though no direct Russian interference in the elections was detected, we can still conclude that in the long term Russian propaganda messages have reached a significant part of Latvian society," said SAB in its report.

According to SAB: "In 2022, Latvian cyberspace endured the most intense cyber-attacks so far. Cyber-attacks are carried out in waves and their number is increasing both because of the wider usage of Internet and cyberspace and the ongoing war in Ukraine. In 2022, the number of incidents registered and processed by the Information Technology Security Incident Response Institution CERT. LV increased by 40%. The search for vulnerabilities in IT systems of the state administration increased 7 times, while the number of attacks quadrupled. Our information indicates that in most cases the source of the cyber threat was Russia."

On its work vetting officials for access to sensitive information, SAB said that in 2022 it denied access to NATO and EU classified information in only four cases. It issued 1,955 security clearances for access to NATO classified information, and 1,998 security clearances for access to EU classified information.

"SAB would like to highlight the following as particularly high-risk criteria for people who were vetted for access to both national and NATO and EU classified information in 2022: gambling, excessive debts (including the so-called quick loans) and/or unclear financial transactions, regular contacts and/or trips to Russia, Belarus and other CIS countries, China as well as provision of false information or concealment of information during the vetting process," it said.

As far as sharing sensitive information with other states is concerned, SAB noted that "In 2022, the text of the bilateral agreement with the United States of America was approved, the necessary provisions for signing of the agreement are currently being prepared."

The classified part of the annual report will be reviewed by the Cabinet of Ministers and the National Security Commission of the Parliament of Latvia.

The full text of the unclassified report is available here.


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