HELSINKI — Norway is taking the lead to develop a defense-focused common cybersecurity strategy for the Nordic region.

The multinational agreement to develop the strategy followed a meeting of the Nordic Council’s executive committee in December. The council functions as the official organization for formal interparliamentary cooperation between the Nordic states. Formed in 1952, it includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Åland Islands.

Norway currently holds the 12-month rotating presidency of the Nordic Council for 2023, having taken over from Finland in December.

The council outsourced the cybersecurity development project to the Nordic Defense Cooperation group, which consists of Denmark, Finalnd, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The effort will serve as part of NORDEFCO’s Vision 2025 initiative.

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 destabalization of the High North and Baltic Sea regions drove a sharper focus on collaboration.

NORDEFCO’s Vision 2025 initiative will now accommodate this new mission to develop a cybersecurity framework that strengthens Nordic resilience against cyberthreats. NORDEFCO will 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 will run 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.

Gerard O'Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.

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