Growing focus on Arctic puts Greenland at higher risk of cyber attacks: assessment

General view of Ilulissat, western Greenland, on June 27, 2022. (Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

The growing international attention on the Arctic puts Greenland at an increased risk for cyber attacks, according to a recent threat assessment. 

“The increasing geopolitical interest in the Arctic has great significance for Greenland in several areas – it puts us on the world map, including when it comes to cyber attacks,” Múte B. Egede, Greenland’s Prime Minister said in a statement.

“In the last few years there has been an increasing number of cyber attacks in Greenland – both cyber espionage and cyber crime. Therefore, this threat assessment is important for Greenland’s further work with cyber security.”

Cyber espionage, cyber crime risks “very high”

The Danish-language assessment, “The Cyber Threat to Greenland,” classified the threat of cyber espionage against Greenland as “very high” and says Russia and China’s increasing activity in the Arctic needs to be closely monitored. 

“Russia sees itself as the leading state in the Arctic with a historical right to play a leading role in the region,”  the assessment said.

“At the same time, China is seeking greater influence in Arctic affairs to gain access to resources and sea routes. Cyber espionage can be misused by both countries to advance their capabilities and interests in the Arctic, potentially at the expense of Greenlandic interests.”

A file photo of Queen Ingrid’s Hospital, Queen Ingridip Napparsimavissua, in Nuuk, Greenland. Greenland’s health system network was attacked in May 2022. (Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)

Denmark’s Acting Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said Greenland must remain vigilant especially when it comes to electronic spying.

“Greenland has a central role in the Arctic,” he said. “Cyber espionage is unfortunately a means that both Russia and China can use to advance their business opportunities and interests in the area, potentially at the expense of Greenlandic interests.” 

Attacks can have “serious consequences for socially important functions in Greenland”

“The increasing geopolitical interest in the Arctic has great significance for Greenland in several areas – it puts us on the world map, including when it comes to cyber attacks,” says Greenland’s Prime Minister Mute B. Egede, pictured here in a 2021 file photo. (Ritzau Scanpix/Emil Helms/Reuters)

The assessment also flagged the threat of cyber crime in Greenland as “very high.”

“Ransomware attacks in particular can not only cause great damage to affected authorities and businesses, but can also have serious consequences for socially important functions in Greenland,” the assessment said. 

The assessment said Greenland’s risk of other types of cyber attacks such as cyber activism or cyber terrorism as either “low” or “none.”

Greenland’s Agency for Digitisation, responsible for cyber and information security in Greenland, started cooperating with Denmark’s Centre for Cyber Security (CFCS), which advises government and private companies in Denmark on how to counter and prevent cyber attacks, in October.

The move came after several serious cyber attacks in Greenland in recent years. Last year was particularly serious, with one attack crippling the government network in March 2022, followed by a May attack on the health care system network that severely limited services

Egede told Greenlandic news paper Sermitsiaq.AG at the time that the March attacks had links to espionage.

The Greenlandic and Danish (L) flags flutter in Ilulissat, western Greenland, on June 28, 2022. “The close relations between Greenland and Denmark mean that Greenlandic organizations are exposed to a shared threat with authorities and companies in Denmark that have links to or significance for Greenland,” the assessment said. (Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

The cooperation agreement between the Greenlandic agency and CFCS includes training staff at the Greenlandic agency and advising on cyber and information security. 

The agreement also involves CFCS giving regular assessments and briefings on cyber threats against Greenland.

The recently released February 2023 report is the first such assessment. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Online security experts warn against online voting in territorial elections in Northern Canada, CBC News

Finland: Russian cyber attacks, espionage pose growing threat to Finnish national security, Yle news

Iceland: Nordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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