HELSINKI — The Nordic Council has emerged as a driving force to deepen cross-border cyber security collaboration between member states.
The group, which functions as a forum for pan-Nordic cooperation, is positioned to serve as a conduit for discussions between states wanting to explore the development of common cyber defense solutions, and in the long-term a possible joint strategy. Nordic states are moving to elevate cyber-security cooperation against the backdrop of regional tensions over Russia’s war with Ukraine.
The advent of war triggered a steady increase in the number of cyber-attacks against Nordic industry and military targets since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The military targets have included the defense departments of Denmark and Sweden.
Strengthening cross-border cyber-security collaboration was one of the significant regional defense issued examined the Nordic Council’s Presidium in December 2022.
Norway currently holds the 12-month rotating presidency of the Nordic Council for 2023, having taken over from Finland in December.
The Nordic Defense Cooperation (NORDEFCO) group, which consists of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, will play a key role in the development of cross-border Nordic cyber-security collaborative solitions. The initiative is regarded as a good fit for NORDEFCO’s Vision 2025 project.
In the long term, the military-influenced strategy is to enhance intelligence sharing between countries, giving the Nordic nations a heightened capacity to defend against threats emanating from the cyber domain.
“Cybersecurity issues are more relevant than ever. In recent years, the number of serious cyberattacks has grown. Additionally, the war in Ukraine has a direct effect on the Nordic region on many different levels. All these factors serve the need to have a common Nordic cybersecurity strategy,” said Erkki Tuomioja, the Nordic Council’s president for 2022.
The Nordic states have explored the potential for a common cybersecurity strategy since 2016. But Russia’s war in Ukraine and the potential resulting destabilization of the High North and Baltic Sea regions drove a sharper focus on collaboration.
NORDEFCO’s Vision 2025 initiative has the scope to be expanded to accommodate a broader new mission for a cybersecurity framework that strengthens Nordic resilience against cyberthreats. NORDEFCO already has the capacity to liaise with military cyberthreat units and national cybersecurity agencies across Nordic nations.
Individually, Nordic states continue to bolster their cyber capacities and make capital investments in new projects. Sweden is investing an additional $130 million in its military budget for 2023-2024 to bolster cyber capabilities. And Finland’s cybersecurity budget during the same period is being doubled to $80 million.
For its part, Iceland launched a national cybersecurity development strategy in 2022 that extends to 2037. The initiative will include joint exercises with Nordic partners to test defensive and offensive cyberthreat solutions.
“Cybersecurity isn’t just a security issue. We also need it to fully harness the power of Nordic innovation. We need greater awareness, expertise and regulations covering cybersecurity to enable us to future-proof our society,” said Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Iceland’s minister of higher education, science and innovation.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on March 13 and March 27, 2023, with new information from the Nordic Council about the steps taken at a December 2022 meeting.
Gerard O'Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.