Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia

Swedish government tells citizens to hoard cash in case of cyber attack

Civil Contingencies Agency says cash is needed in case of emergencies such as technology failures and cyber attacks

A Swedish government body has told the country’s citizens to store cash in case of emergencies that could make other payment methods impossible.

According to The Times, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency said people should keep “cash in small denominations” to ensure they have access to money if case of emergencies including technology glitches and cyber attacks.

Sweden is often cited as potentially the first country to go cashless, but its central bank, Riksbank, recently demanded an inquiry into the risks associated with a cashless society.

According to the World Economic Forum, the value of cash in circulation in Sweden has dropped to 1% of the country’s GDP, but in 2017, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that the use of cash continues to increase in all the world’s economies apart from Norway and Sweden.

In 2016, Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats put forward a plan to make the country the world’s first cashless society by 2030. This specific target date was broadly supported by opposition party leaders subject to the government reaching a consensus on the plan with trade unions, banks and Sweden’s leading national consumer groups.

But not everyone supports a rapid transition to a digital currency. Interest groups representing older citizens, such as the Swedish National Pensioners' Organisation (SNPO), which has 350,000 members, are demanding a national debate and possible referendum to decide the issue.

“The right to use cash must remain a right in Sweden so long as the law applies,” said SPNO chairman Christina Tallberg. “People must continue to have this option available to them. We are not against a cash-free society; we just want it to proceed at a pace everybody can feel comfortable with.”

Read more about going cashless in the Nordic region

The guidance issued by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency is evidence that the government want to tread carefully. An over-reliance on digital payments can be a problem if systems go down because of an IT failure or cyber attack, for example.

In the UK, when the TSB bank experienced problems with its core banking system in 2018, thousands of customers were affected, including being locked out of their accounts and money disappearing from online accounts.

Read more on IT for financial services

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