The Finnish government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s National Coalition-led right-wing administration, is taking proactive measures to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity defenses against rising threats posed by artificial intelligence (AI)-based cyberattacks. These initiatives aim to safeguard both state and private organizations in Finland from evolving cyber threats.
A 30% surge in cybersecurity spending
As part of their strategy, the government is planning to significantly increase cybersecurity investments, currently under assessment by the Ministry of Finance for the 2024 national budget. The proposal aims to boost cybersecurity spending by 30% compared to 2023 levels, with a projected budget of €280 million in 2024. The specific allocation of these funds for cyber AI enhancements will be disclosed upon finalization of the 2024 budget in October.
Aligning with AI threat analysis
The government’s cybersecurity plans closely align with findings and recommendations from the “Security Threat of AI-Enabled Cyberattacks” (STAIC) report. This comprehensive report, a collaboration between Finland’s state transport and communications agency Traficom, the National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA), and cybersecurity leader WithSecure, serves as a foundation for the proposed initiatives.
The STAIC report insights and projections
The STAIC report highlights the pressing need for cybersecurity improvements. It foresees cyber attackers developing AI tools capable of autonomously identifying vulnerabilities in IT systems and executing stealthy attack campaigns within the next five to six years. Additionally, cybercriminals are expected to enhance tools for collecting information, particularly open-source intelligence.
The evolution of AI-enabled threats
The report underscores that AI-enabled threats have, so far, been limited primarily to social engineering applications, such as impersonation and data analysis. However, these threats are expected to evolve both in sophistication and frequency in the short to medium term. Once developed by skilled adversaries, these AI techniques may trickle down to less experienced cyber attackers, increasing their prevalence in the threat landscape.
Sauli Pahlman, Deputy Director General at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), emphasizes that the growing availability and affordability of AI technologies, skills, and tools will empower cybercriminals. Criminals may soon utilize AI for online scams and other nefarious activities, potentially amplifying the number of cyber threats.
While AI may not immediately lead to entirely new types of attacks, it will significantly automate various cyber threats, including phishing, social engineering, and information gathering. To counter these AI-driven attacks, defenders—both state and corporate entities—will need to adapt and implement innovative security techniques. These efforts may encompass non-technical services, intelligence sharing, resourcing, and security awareness training.
Safeguarding Finland’s AI future
As Finland continues to promote AI development and innovation, it must also secure its AI landscape against potential threats. Collaborating with key technology research organizations and fostering open dialogues with industry leaders, the government aims to strike a balance between harnessing AI’s potential benefits and ensuring robust AI security.
In a survey conducted by the Foundation for Municipal Development (Kaks), Finns’ perceptions of AI are divided. While 62% of respondents believe AI can enhance industrial production efficiency, concerns about job security, customer service quality, and access to accurate information dampen enthusiasm, with 49% expressing reservations about AI’s impact.
The role of the innovation practitioners community
To guide policies related to AI security and innovation, the Finnish government has begun engaging with crucial technology research organizations, including the recently established Innovation Practitioners Community (IPC). This international peer network, formed in May 2023, is poised to play a vital role in shaping government policies related to innovation knowledge enhancement and national AI security.
Chairman of IPC, Antero Kivikoski, highlights the importance of innovation in strengthening Finnish companies and society, emphasizing the need for dialogue with business leaders to showcase the advantages of investing in innovation for product and service development.
Finland’s proactive approach to bolstering cybersecurity in the face of AI-enabled threats reflects its commitment to secure its digital future while harnessing the potential benefits of AI technology. As the nation strengthens its defenses and collaborates with industry and research organizations, it strives to strike a balance between innovation and security in the AI landscape.