Swiss intelligence service: Europe to face increasing cyberespionage due to efforts against Russian intelligence
The annual report of Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) claims that the escalation of cyberespionage is a response to the reduction in the number of intelligence personnel deployed in target countries, making it a compensatory measure.
There is a growing concern that cyberattacks for espionage purposes, particularly targeting critical infrastructure operators, will rise due to Western efforts to weaken Russia’s intelligence networks in Europe, according to the annual report of Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS).
The FIS emphasized the need for intelligence services worldwide to enhance their capacity to gather data domestically and internationally. The primary focus should be on entities that handle large volumes of sensitive data, including financial service providers, state administrations, critical infrastructure operators, and even businesses like hotels. The agency also issued a caution regarding technology firms involved in social media, communication services, search engines, and digital surveillance, which collect user information.
The report clarified that the escalation of cyberespionage is a response to the reduction in the number of intelligence personnel deployed in target countries, making it a compensatory measure. Since the Ukraine invasion, European governments have expelled numerous Russian spies operating under diplomatic cover.
Despite these expulsions, the FIS warned that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has provided opportunities for Russian intelligence services to send more of their employees to Europe disguised as refugees. Although some spies may travel undetected and gain temporary admission, their refugee status does not offer the same level of access as operating with diplomatic credentials, resulting in less effective replacements for a significant period.
According to the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung, many of the Russian diplomats expelled from European host nations have chosen Switzerland as their destination instead of returning to Moscow. The FIS reported that Switzerland, being a host to international organisations, has one of the highest numbers of Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.