The author of this University Administration column is Fredrik Blomqvist, Chief Security Officer at the Security and Safety Division. Fredrik emphasises the importance of continuous and proactive security efforts, both to ensure that the University can conduct world-class education and research and to safeguard academic freedom.2023-10-17
Turbulent global situation places major emphasis on security issues
COLUMN: Security issues are high on the agenda internationally, nationally, and at our own organisation. The University's Security and Safety Division works continuously to protect the University’s activities, and here follow some examples.
Barely had we recovered from the major global challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic when, on 24 February 2022, Russia initiated a military campaign in Europe targeting Ukraine. A war with dire consequences was no longer a peripheral event but something affecting the immediate region in which we live. Add to that the fact that Sweden’s constitutionally protected freedom of speech has been used to burn sacred books, resulting in massive international and national protests. This, in turn, has led the Swedish Security Service to raise the terrorism threat level in Sweden from three to four on a five-point scale. Security issues are high on the agenda, and at Uppsala University we are addressing security matters in various ways.
The Security and Safety Division is currently leading a university-wide security risk analysis with the aim of identifying any sensitive activities within the University’s research. ‘Sensitive activities’ are those that, if disclosed, could impact Sweden’s security. If such activities are identified, protective measures are taken, including secure storage and sharing of information, security clearance for individuals, control of permissions and access, and enhanced property protection. Unauthorised influence is a collective term for hatred, threats, and violence directed at officials with the motive of compelling the victim to take actions that benefit the influencer.
Unlawful influence occurs at all Swedish authorities, and Uppsala University is no exception. However, we must never yield to threats. Together, we need to ensure that the University’s research and education can continue without hindrance or influence. The Security and Safety Division supports the University’s managers and leadership in dealing with such situations, and in some cases, specific individuals where this is deemed possible.
The first piece of advice in nearly all situations involving threats or violence is: don’t stand alone—build a team (a temporary working group) to handle the incident and provide care to those affected.
In the long term, this is about protecting and ensuring both Sweden’s constitutionally protected freedom of speech and academic freedom. Both the security analysis and efforts to counter unlawful influence are examples of how we at Uppsala University can contribute to this.
During the summer, something that keeps anyone working in information security awake at night actually happened: information was stolen from the management’s internal IT systems. The source of the intrusion was quickly identified and patched. However, the fact remained that a large number of files belonging to Uppsala University had been disclosed on internet sites whose purpose is to facilitate the sharing of stolen information. The exposed information included personal data such as names and usernames. The individuals whose personal data was exposed through the leak have already been or will be contacted.
The Security and Safety Division continuously collaborates with University IT services to enhance the University’s IT security. We work diligently to strike a balance between important academic values such as transparency and openness and securing our information systems. Our current priorities include the introduction of multifactor authentication (MFA) for vital information systems and improved protection against incoming internet traffic through updates of the University’s firewalls.
Our campus security staff, who monitor our premises at Uppsala University every day and around the clock, deserve special recognition. Their work is incredibly important in terms of daily proactive security and helps secure our activities so that we can continue to be an organisation characterised by a welcoming, open, and transparent approach, which in turn promotes world-class education and research.
Fredrik Blomqvist, Chief Security Officer at the Security and Safety Division.