Swedish Government Scrambles to Contain Damage From Data Breach

Unlike other cases involving breaches of government data, the case in Sweden does not appear to involve hacking or other malice. Instead, the focus has been on an apparent absence of proper safeguards and oversight.

On Monday, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven called the breach of information “a total breakdown.” He said: “It is incredibly serious. It is a violation of the law and put Sweden and its citizens in harm’s way.”

Anders Thornberg, head of the Swedish Security Service, told journalists: “This is very serious because it could damage our operational business that we are conducting every day in order to protect Sweden.”

Members of Parliament have not been satisfied by those assurances. On Tuesday, they interviewed Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist and Interior Minister Anders Ygeman behind closed doors, asking why Mr. Lofven was only informed of the breach in January, at least 10 months after they became aware of it.

The scandal could throw the government, which is dominated by Mr. Lofven’s center-left Social Democrats, into turmoil. In a phone interview, Anna Kinberg Batra, the leader of the opposition Moderate Party, said a no-confidence vote in one or more ministers was possible.

“They have failed to communicate among themselves and to the prime minister, to the opposition and to the Swedish people,” she said.

“I think the public needs to know if our national security is jeopardized or not. In my mind the minister must swiftly inform the prime minister, who apparently hadn’t heard of this until this year. That is really the essence of the crisis of confidence.”

According to the results of a preliminary investigation that began in January 2016, at least three unauthorized people in the Czech Republic had full access to the databases, meaning that they could copy the information and erase their electronic footprints.

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