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Cyber attacks represent a serious threat to today’s networked society. No country can afford to retreat into its shell – cooperation with other countries and various organisations is required in order to respond to modern threats to security.

In its national Cyber Security Strategy, Finland has set itself the objective of becoming a global forerunner in the field by 2016. In the cyber domain, however, this will be impossible to achieve without cooperation. Finland's natural partners in this respect are the European Union and, through the Partnership for Peace, NATO. Discussion on preparation for new security threats began in NATO and worldwide following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Despite this, NATO experienced its final wake-up call only in 2007, when NATO-nation Estonia became the target of large scale cyber attack on a broad front, coinciding with riots in the country over the removal of the controversial monument. The targets of the attack included banks, data communications networks and media, putting the national security of Estonia at risk.

Lieutenant Colonel Harri Suni

Lieutenant Colonel Harri Suni

“Following the incident, NATO drew up a data network defence concept in 2008, specifying the requirements for cooperation between member states. The NATO Summit of 2010 approved a strategic concept for data network defence, which made cyber security one of the focus areas of the alliance,” says Lieutenant Colonel Harri Suni.

Lieutenant Colonel Harri Suni is currently serving as a national C3 and Cyber Defence Representative in Brussels at Mission of Finland to NATO and also at Permanent Representation of Finland to the European Union. In 2011-2013 Lieutenant Colonel Suni was a member of the secretariat responsible for the preparation of Finnish national Cyber Security Strategy.

Suni does not consider the cyber terrorism threat to Finland as significant as organized cyber espionage which has hit the headlines also in Finland. However, we do have plenty of critical infrastructure that could be attacked in an attempt to pressurise the Finnish government. We need to ensure that the authorities are better prepared to meet such a threat in the future, Suni reminds us.

Critical infrastructure refers to structures and functions necessary to ensuring that society continues to function. These include energy-production facilities and energy networks; communications and information technology; the financial sector; health care; food supply chain; water supply; transport and logistics; the production chains, storage and transport of hazardous materials and the functionality of the public sector.

“It is often said that, in the cyber domain, one person can cause a great deal of destruction. However, it is not quite that simple. Some years ago, a precision targeted cyber attack was made against an Iranian nuclear plant. A memory stick containing malicious worm (Stuxnet) was connected to the facility's closed network, causing widespread destruction. It is well believed that the development was of this malicious software took years and cost millions of dollars.

"A sophisticated large scale cyber attack always requires money, time and resources," Suni reminds us.

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International cooperation brings indisputable benefits to Finland, but what can we offer our partners? Our companies and corporations have invested in information
technology and we still have one of the world’s leading electronics industries. Much research and development in the field of cyber security is also performed in Finland.
However, there is one field in which Finland truly excels.

“Finland is in a league of its own in terms of overall security of society. The Finnish authorities and private sector work in close cooperation. Cyber security and cyber defence cannot and should not be separated. Finland does not divide such tasks between soldiers and civilians; rather, everything is done together. Many countries and organisations are studying how things are done in Finland,” says Suni.

International cooperation offers new business opportunities for the Finnish defence materiel, IT and electronics industries. Cyber security projects worth hundreds of millions of euros are launched in NATO each year.

"Although we are not NATO members, we do have an excellent opportunity as a Partner with Nato to showcase our expertise. I do strongly believe that in the current economic situation no enterprise will turn down any opportunity to use all possibilities and purchasing mechanisms to sell its products and expertise to a wide range of countries and customers," Harri Suni concludes.

 

This article was published in the Patria magazine in December 2013