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Finland should brace for Russian cyber attacks, Traficom says

Although Finland's preparedness and defence capabilities are high, the transport and communications agency urges citizens to be well-prepared for network and power outages.

Anonyymi kybersotilas. Lavastettu tilanne.
Finland has been the target of an increasing amount of cyber attacks since 2019, according to Traficom. Image: Ronnie Holmberg / Yle
Yle News

Finland's possible Nato membership application may increase cybersecurity threats from Russia, the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom warns.

Referring to events including a wave of cyber attacks in Estonia some 15 years ago in the wake of the removal of a Soviet soldier statue in Tallinn, Traficom's cybersecurity director Sauli Pahlman said that an increase in such attacks by Russia is very likely.

"It would be a matter of good luck if there were no alerts, if the government decides to submit an application for Nato membership," he said.

Traficom says that Ukraine has become a 'testing laboratory' for cyberattacks which have targeted the country across sectors including energy, trade, water supply, media and healthcare.

Finland has also seen an increase in cyber meddling this spring, according to the agency, with GPS networks experiencing an unprecedented amount of service interruptions.

Authorities and experts say that there is a number of things ordinary citizens can do to prepare in the event of disruptive cyber attacks.

Traficom: Keep cash handy in case of banking disruptions

Authentication via bank credentials, a method widely used in Finland for identity verification, is particularly susceptible to attacks. Bank credentials can be used to access a plethora of services in Finland from police to healthcare services.

"Usually these types of disruptions are repaired quickly so that there is no long-term harm to citizens. Bank actions that require identification can be scheduled well in advance before the final deadline," leading specialist at the Security Committee Mari Aro said, adding that "it would be good to have electronic identification of more than one bank account in use."

Alternative forms of electronic identification also include verification via sim card that can be activated by a phone operator and via the chips integrated into identity cards. The latter method requires a card reader, says Jussi Leskinen, a financial expert at Traficom's cybersecurity department.

"You can always prepare for the failure of payment cards by making sure that you have got some cash in hand. However, there's no need to rush into emptying ATM machines. You can make sure that you keep enough money at home to cover essential expenses, such as the food shop and pharmacy products needed for a few days. Generally however, funds are safer in a bank account than at home," Aro noted.

Power cuts unlikely, but be prepared

Finland's high level of preparedness and defence capabilities make it unlikely for cyber attacks to succeed in cutting off the nation's power supply. Nonetheless, the scenario cannot be ruled out completely, Leskinen tells Yle, adding that mobile hotspot sharing can come in handy in case of longer-term power cuts.

The time-honoured battery-operated radio is also a good source of information if all other electronic devices are experiencing disruptions. Trustworthy sources of information are integral in times of crisis, and both Leskinen and Aro encourage citizens to generally be critical of the information they read online.

Food, water, medicine, heat and light are also important factors to take into account in preparing for prolonged power cuts. The Finnish National Rescue Association recommends storing supplies that will last the entire household, pets included, for at least 72 hours.

"I recommend storing bottled water from the shop as it will stay good for a couple of years. Filling your own bottles from the tap is unsanitary and difficult," says Sanna Räsänen, preparedness expert at the rescue association.

As for heat and lighting; carpets, tents and flashlights - especially headlights- can prove extremely useful if one is caught powerless during cold weather or in the dark, the expert added.

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