Finnish one of most popular languages on the dark web

Finns go to the dark web to buy illegal drugs and stolen identities and for industrial espionage, one expert says.

Image: Ritchie B. Tongo / EPA

Finnish has become one of the world’s 10 most commonly used languages on the dark web, according to Finnish cyber security expert Mikko S. Niemelä.

Niemelä, who is the founder of the Singapore-based cyber security firm Cyber Intelligence House, said that the growing importance of the language signals that cyber crime is on the rise in Finland.

According to data gathered by the firm, dark web leaks of Finns' personal data and business secrets have quadrupled during the past three years. The findings are based on a review of data gathered for UK anti-drug and –crime units.

Niemelä said that hackers initially leak compromised data to the dark web for free. "First they leak to build up their reputations. Because it is an anonymous network, reputation is extremely important," he told STT news agency.

Once hackers have developed their street credibility, they can begin to charge for stolen data.

Individuals use dark web for illegal drugs

In Finland, private individuals generally resort to dark web networks such as Tor primarily to buy narcotics. However stolen information such as personal and credit card data account for the highest volumes traded in these illicit spaces.

"Passports have long been the single most highly-requested document," Niemelä added, noting that the pattern was similar throughout the world.

The cyber security expert explained that organized crime organizations especially need passports as they allow them to move people from one country to another. These operatives can then carry out terrorist acts of open bank accounts with stolen identities.

Stolen data used for industrial espionage

The dark web is also a teeming marketplace where usernames and passwords used to access companies’ internal systems are traded. They are most sought-after for technology and product development firms, of which there are many in Finland. Niemelä said this trend has increased cyber crime in Finland.

"Firms don't want to purchase such information directly, but [deals] take place through a clever middleman. It may be sold as market research for example, showing how competitors operate. Some research may contain a surprising level of detail. However very few ask how it is possible to get such in depth information about competitors," Niemelä remarked.

The buyer of such corporate information may even not necessarily know that the data has been obtained via criminal means.

Firms responsible for data protection

According to Niemelä one factor driving the growth in cyber crime is the fact that Finland is a highly digitalised country. He said the key to combating cyber crime in Finland is to understand what the situation would be if no action is taken.

He also said that Finland is known as a country that is tough on cyber crime in organisations such as the international police agency Interpol.

"Individuals cannot do a great deal to protect their personal data. The ball is in the court of private and public organisations that store such valuable information," he concluded.