Since December 2009, Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Försvarets radioanstalt – FRA) has been authorised to monitor all cable-bound communications traffic in Sweden, including emails, text messages, and telephone calls.
The powers, granted in a controversial surveillance law, were meant to help FRA detect evidence of foreign threats to Sweden.
But the growing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers have complicated FRA’s efforts to reconstruct messages culled from network traffic so analysts can read or listen to their contents.
As a result, the Swedish government has budgeted an additional 200 million kronor ($30.2 million) in funding for FRA over the next three years to help the agency keep up with advancing technology.
“Previously, we could have the same equipment for several decades, but now we have to keep up with the latest developments and change equipment more quickly,”FRA technology chief Mats Nordqvist told the Ny Teknik magazine.
“It’s not so much the collection in itself that we need new equipment for, but the processing afterward.”
While Nordqvist refused to go into specifics about what sort of web based services and applications the agency needed help monitoring, other sources told the magazine the agency needs new equipment to help it snoop on traffic generated by smartphone apps.
In addition to purchasing new equipment, FRA also plans to use the new funds to hire new staff with the competence required to carry out the next generation of signals intelligence work.