Sweden’s EU and trade minister confirms she knew about suspected IT failings in 2015

Sweden's EU and trade minister confirms she knew about suspected IT failings in 2015
Sweden's EU Affairs and Trade Minister Ann Linde. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT
A further Swedish government minister has been caught up in the scandal around a cyber security slip-up after EU Affairs and Trade Minister Ann Linde confirmed she was made aware of suspected IT security failings in 2015 while she was state secretary to then Interior Minister Anders Ygeman.

In July it emerged that Sweden's security police Säpo had investigated the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) when key information was made available to IT workers in other countries who had not gone through the usual security clearance checks.

The massive leak of confidential information stems from the agency's hiring of IBM in 2015 to take over its operations. IBM used subcontractors abroad, making sensitive information and an entire database of Swedish drivers' licences accessible to foreign technicians without the proper clearance.

READ ALSO: Swedish government battles political fall-out from transport data leak

Linde was informed by Säpo about their concerns in September 2015, when it was also known that Transportstyrelsen's then CEO Maria Ågren had decided to bypass the usual security rules during the outsourcing process due to time pressure.

“But the information then was not anywhere near everything that emerged later. Rather, what I received information about was that Säpo had indications that certain data from the driving licence register could fall into the wrong hands because Transportstyrelsen was outsourcing,” Linde told news agency TT.

Her staff then informed both the defence and enterprise departments during the autumn of 2015. Then Interior Minister Ygeman was not told until early 2016 however:

“Ygeman was told at the start of 2016 as he has stated. He provided a correct account. Both what he and the Prime Minister stated about when they found out is correct”.

And both PM Löfven and then Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson, who was the minister ultimately responsible for the Transport Agency, were only informed in January 2017 Linde confirmed:

“They were informed when it was thought appropriate to do so. When it comes to the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation (of which the Infrastructure Minister is a part) I can't say anything. There it's known that there has been a problem with the information and it is up to them to try and make it better now with their new Infrastructure Minister”.

Both Johansson and Ygeman lost their jobs last week as part of a government reshuffle by PM Löfven in response to a no-confidence motion by the opposition Alliance coalition.

READ ALSO: Swedish PM announces reshuffle in response to no-confidence motion

Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, who was also subject to the no-confidence motion, was not replaced however, with Löfven insisting he “does not have responsibility for the authority where the shortcomings occurred”. The opposition plans on pushing forward with their motion against him.

On Thursday, new Infrastructure Minister Tomas Eneroth announced that the Swedish government has appointed an investigator to lead an inquiry into the IT scandal from the original idea to outsource to the conclusion, noting that he is “keen to get to the bottom of this”.

The investigator will be charged with mapping out which information was mishandled and asked to make suggestions on how similar problems can be prevented from happening again. The results of the inquiry will be presented in January 2018.

An investigation into the matter will also be launched by Sweden's Committee on the Constitution.

READ ALSO: Swedish cyber secrurity slip-up a 'complete fialure' according to PM