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Tuesday's papers: Questions about data breach, mayor vs government, safer sports

A data breach at a psychotherapy centre remains high in the headlines in the Finnish newspaper press.

Tietokoneen näppäimistö ja tekstiä ruudulla
Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle
Yle News

The tabloid Ilta-Sanomat writes that the hacking of sensitive information on thousands of patients at the private mental health services firm Vastaamo has raised a number of interesting questions that have not yet been answered by Finland's National Bureau of Investigation.

The first question the paper asks is why did the hacker or hackers wait two years from the first breach of the database before attempting to exploit this information.

According to Ilta-Sanomat one theory is that the hacker didn't realize what kind of material he had accessed.

In an interview with the paper, the research director of the IT security company F-Secure, Mikko Hyppönen, said there is another possibility--the blackmailer knew immediately what he was getting his hands on, but decided to wait to reduce his risk of getting caught, as the the event logs of a few corporate systems go back as far as two years..

The second question the paper poses is why are the sums the blackmailer is demanding so small.

Many observers consider the ransom demand of around 450,000 euros presented to Vastamo and 200 euros sought from private individuals to be quite modest. Hyppönen doesn't think the demands are particularly small. He pointed to the fact that Vastaamo has had large revenues, but a thin profit margin. If the hacker had especially targeted higher-income individuals, such as business leaders, those demands might have been higher.

In addition, Hyppönen believes that the hacker realized he'd made a mistake by stealing this particular data and was in a hurry to make some money off of it.

It is also not known how much of the patient data is held by anyone other than the original blackmailer..

Hyppönen believes that a "handful" of people have possession of the information.

"The question is: If at least 10 people had time to download the file, how many of these 10 are so twisted and emotionally cold that they would be ready to leak it all over the internet or start using it for blackmail themselves," Hyppönen asked.

Finally, Ilta-Sanomat poses the question of who or what is behind the crime.

There has been speculation on social media that it was an inside job or that there was a political motive. Security experts do not consider this likely.

Teija Tiilikainen, Director of the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, told IS that in the light of current knowledge, it is hardly a question of hybrid impact.

"The pursuit of money and financial motive is obviously the purpose," Tiilikainen stated.

"Human error"

Iltalehti reports that Ville Tapio, the CEO of Vastaamo who was dismissed from his position on Monday, took to Facebook later in the day to give a brief account of his role and to offer an apology to the victims of the data breach.

In a post, he wrote that he became aware of a 2018 data leak and the errors that led to it only after an outside security review in October 2020. He did not mention a data breach. That occurred in 2019.

Tapio stated that while his dismissal is still being processed, he cannot comment on details. However, concerning systems security at the company, he wrote that "apparently, human errors piled up."

Mayor not pleased

Finland's largest circulation daily, Helsingin Sanomat, carries an article claiming that relations are tense between Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori (NCP) and the government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP).

The cause of the tensions, it writes is a government decision-in-principle announced Friday restricting free time activities and public events in order to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Vapaavuori rejected the decision in principle because it does not list exactly what sports and hobbies the regions should recommend to be suspended. He had previously said that he expected the state to provide precise guidelines on the types of risk before the metropolitan area could make its own decisions on recommendations.

Vapaavuori's comments reportedly made Annika Saarikko (Cen), the minister responsible for sports, "nervous," according to Helsingin Sanomat. Officials at the Ministry of Education and Culture had already told Helsinki city officials at a joint meeting earlier in the week that the government was not coming up with an precise listing.

Nevertheless, Vapaavuori still said in public that he believed that precise guidance on risk types would come from the government.

As the matter now stands, the government expects the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, under the leadership of Vapaavuori, to take responsibility for restricting free time activities. Vapaavuori, on the other hand, believes that the government is trying to evade its own responsibility by shifting difficult and unpopular decisions to regional authorities..

Tensions began rising between the mayor and the government at the end of September. At that time, Vapaavuori criticized the government's decision to limit the opening hours and customer capacity caps in restaurants. He himself advocated lighter and only gradually tightening restrictions so that the impact on businesses would not be so strong.

According to the paper's sources, the government's view is that Vapaavuori himself is not doing enough to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus, but rather trying to interfere with its response.

In recent weeks, cabinet ministers have praised action to contain the effects of the virus that have been taken in Mikkeli, Kuhmo, Vaasa and Jyväskylä. However, the government has not said publically which regions have not done enough.

According to HS sources, this has not been said aloud because the government has tried not to irritate officials in the the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Finland's entire coronavirus strategy is based on responsible action by regional authorities.

Vapaavuori declined to comment further than to say he is generally surprised at the claim that the metropolitan area has not done enough to combat the coronavirus.

Risky sports

The Tampere-based daily Aamulehti looks at the spread of the coronavirus and the risks involved in participation in sports.

Jari Parkkari, who works as a sports physician and has been a doctor for the Finnish Olympic team, told Aamulehti that in his opinion, more attention should be given to the physical condition of people taking part in sports, rather than the type of sport itself.

"The most important thing is to know whether the participant belongs to a risk group or whether he or she regularly comes into contact with those belonging to risk groups," Parkkari said.

Even with that in mind, the paper carries a ranking of safe to risky sports and exercise activities, beginning with very safe outdoor activities such as jogging, to close contact team sports.

Swimming at public pools, group workouts and going to he gym are all listed as "fairly safe," while indoor climbing and team sports, especially, are tagged as requiring special care.

Revised 27.10,20 at 14:13 to include links to original articles.

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