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Finnish public urged to boost domestic and business internet security

The Finnish security and intelligence service (Suojelupoliisi: SUPO) made a rare appeal to the public to bolster cyber-security efforts on 10 March. The organisation had noted an increase in cyber espionage utilising Finnish infrastructure to give the appearance that an attack had originated in Finland. According to SUPO, “The cyber espionage divisions of intelligence services in authoritarian states in particular have exploited dozens of network devices and servers operated by individuals and businesses in Finland by linking them into an infrastructure used for espionage.”

Consequently, SUPO encouraged the public to ensure that router security is increased, taking measures including blocking external access to the router control panel from the internet, changing default passwords, closing unnecessary open ports, and updating router firmware. SUPO senior analyst Veli-Pekka Kivimäki told Janes that “[In] the past five years overall, cyber has been of increasing importance in espionage activities. There has been a marked increase, especially in 2020, in activity that we have picked up.” Kivimäki cited several impacts from Covid-19 as partial drivers of this increase.

“One is that basic human intelligence operations are more difficult due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Travel for short-term assignments is hard to arrange, and intelligence officers more permanently stationed in the country have difficulty meeting with people. So, foreign intelligence services look for other routes to get the information that they want, which puts more pressure on [intelligence] collection through the cyber side.” He added, “The […] whole country went into nearly full remote work mode around March last year in a very rushed manner. This meant that a lot of systems and operations necessarily did not take security into account when the transition was done, leaving vulnerable systems out there.”

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