EU must stand ground on cyber security, says Finland’s WithSecure

The European Union (EU) needs to take a stronger stance on cyber security, both to counter the growing wave of cyber crime and to confront the immediate threat of destabilising attacks from Russia, according to senior executives from WithSecure.

The enterprise security company, created from the split of F-Secure’s enterprise and consumer businesses earlier this year, is holding its inaugural Sphere conference in Helsinki, 300km away from Russian president Vladimir Putin’s home town of St Petersburg.

Speaking at the opening of the event today (1 June 2022), WithSecure’s president and CEO, Juhani Hintikka, said: “Finland doesn’t often make it into international headlines. That changed when Russia invaded Ukraine and the Europe security landscape transformed overnight.”

Russia’s assault on Ukraine has involved repeated attempts to take out the country’s critical national infrastructure but hasn’t been accompanied by a broader range of cyber attacks on other countries, as might have been expected. However, tension between Russia and Finland, and its neighbour Sweden has shot up after the two applied to join Nato.

Hintikka said this means that “Finland and Sweden are surely becoming more interesting targets for hacking groups with Russian ties”.

But it was too late for the sort of disinformation efforts that Moscow specialises in to derail the shift towards Nato, he added. “What is more worrying, though, is that later cyber attacks by the Russian government, directly or state-sponsored groups, as a retaliation against the decision to join Nato could happen. Also, cyber espionage attacks are a likely scenario.”

WithSecure’s chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen, said that although it might appear that Russia is not waging a successful cyber assault on Ukraine, this is largely because of Ukraine’s defence efforts, backed by Western partners such as Google and Microsoft.

Intelligence suggests the level of attack activity against Ukraine is actually up by a factor of three compared with a year ago, he said. And there have been some clear successes for Russia, including crippling its border control systems in the early days of the war with a wiper…